Newark Mayor Cory Booker to Explore Run for Senate in 2014

Booker suggests that decision hinges on whether Sen. Frank Lautenberg retires.

ByABC News
December 20, 2012, 11:19 AM

Dec. 20, 2012 -- Popular Newark Mayor Cory Booker is "exploring the possibility" of running for the U.S. Senate rather than governor, the social-media-savvy Democrat posted on his website today.

His letter said he will finish out his term as mayor and consider running for the Senate in 2014.

Many observers considered Booker, 43, a potential challenger to Chris Christie in New Jersey's 2013 governor race.

Such an election would have pitted the brash, tough-talking, union-challenging Republican governor with sky-high approval ratings in a blue state against the vegetarian do-gooder mayor who shoveled snow on request from Twitter, undertook a "food stamp challenge" to raise awareness about hunger and once entered a burning building to save a neighbor.

Booker's letter hints at the idea that he will only run for Senate if Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., retires.

"I look forward to consulting with Senator Lautenberg," Booker, who's African-American, writes. "During my lifetime, he has been one of New Jersey's most important leaders. It would be a privilege to continue his great legacy of service."

Lautenberg, who turns 89 in next month, was first elected to the Senate in 1982 and is serving his fifth term. He left office for two years before running, and winning, again.

The Record of Bergen County, N.J., reported in April that former Lautenberg aides said the senator "has not considered retiring because he did so in 2000 and hated it so much he leaped at the chance to get back to the Senate in 2002."

For his part, Lautenberg's office issued a statement today saying that he is focusing on the tasks at hand, including a "disaster relief bill for New Jersey and addressing America's broken gun laws."

"The last several months and weeks have been a painful time for New Jersey and America, and the Senator is working on the tough issues we face," according to a statement from Lautenberg spokesman Caley Gray. "This is not the time for political distractions and the Senator will address politics next year."

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., is the only African-American U.S. senator. He acquired that distinction earlier this week when South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley appointed him to replace departing Sen. Jim DeMint.