WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork) — He is known for his boundless energy, but the oldest-serving United States senator has decided he will step down.
New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, 89, said will not run for re-election in 2014. The Democrat is scheduled to travel to his hometown of Paterson on Friday to formally announce his decision.
“While I may not be seeking re-election, there is plenty of work to do before the end of this term,” Lautenberg said in a statement.
Despite the announcement, Lautenberg vowed to “keep fighting hard as ever” for his constituents, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
“This is not the end of anything, but rather the beginning of a two-year mission to pass new gun safety laws, protect children from toxic chemicals, and create more opportunities for working families in New Jersey,” Lautenberg said.
Many voters agree it is time to go.
“Just in general. No matter what you’re doing, at 89 you should be relaxing and enjoying life…especially being a politician, that’s gotta be stressful,” Rutgers student Veronica Gasper told CBS 2’s Dick Brennan.
“He had a good run and it’s time…for the new guard to move in,” Anthony Neal, of Newark, said.
But it was the new guard that apparently infuriated Lautenberg. Newark Mayor Corey Booker declared he would explore running for Lautenberg’s seat before Lautenberg said he would retire.
Lautenberg was said to be so upset, he started talking about running again.
“Lautenberg is someone who wants respect, demands respect and he felt like Corey Booker kind of jumped the line, so I think he was genuinely angry,”said Seton Hall professor Matthew Hale.
Booker has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Committee paving the way for him to raise money for a run. He has not officially announced a Senate campaign, but said the procedural step was necessary in order for him to legally explore the possibility of running.
Booker is a rising star in the Democratic party and a social-network superstar, with 1.3 million followers on Twitter.
After the news, Booker praised Lautenberg for his “strong model of leadership,” and later issued the following statement:
“Senator Frank Lautenberg has been a champion for the people of New Jersey for decades and his legacy of service will improve the lives of all American’s for years to come.”
Booker went on to say “Senator Lautenberg has been a strong model of leadership and service to me since before I even considered entering elected office. I look forward to continuing to work with him for the remainder of his term in the senate and for many years to come.”
Booker, though, could have competition for the Democratic nomination. Congressman Frank Pallone is also said to be interested in running.
“I think everybody out of the state sort of looks at Cory Booker as the anointed one, but I think there’s a lot of people in the state who might give Frank Pallone a shot,” said Hale.
Meanwhile, other officials, including Gov. Chris Christie, reacted to the announcement.
“Frank Lautenberg and I have had our differences through the years, but I’ve always respected him for his tenacity, devotion to the people of New Jersey and his love for and commitment to public service,” Christie said. “I will always be grateful for his doggedness in fighting with me and the delegation to ensure congressional passage of an aid package after Hurricane Sandy that is delivering necessary assistance to our residents. I wish him the best in his retirement.”
President Obama joined the chorus, releasing the following statement on Thursday:
“Frank is a steadfast champion of the people of New Jersey. Throughout his time in the Senate, Frank has fought tirelessly for workers, veterans, members of our military and their families, and immigrants, and he continues to make extraordinary contributions to our nation’s safety, and the health and welfare of our citizens,” Obama said. “His service in World War II is a testament to his character and deep commitment to public service. I look forward to working with Frank on critical issues before us these next two years, and Michelle and I wish him and Bonnie all the best.”
Lautenberg was first elected to the Senate in 1982 and served five terms, retiring in 2000. Two years later, Lautenberg was elected again and re-elected in 2008. Lautenberg is the last World War II veteran in the Senate.
Lautenberg is known for his advocacy of gun control measures, calls for improvement to infrastructure, and work to improve Amtrak.
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