NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Newark Mayor Cory Booker officially threw his hat in the ring Saturday for the seat of late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.)
At a news conference Saturday morning, Booker was joined by former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley, a former professional basketball player and onetime presidential hopeful who held the seat Booker is seeking for 18 years.
“I’m here today to officially announce my candidacy to be New Jersey’s next United States Senator,” Booker said.
Booker, 44, said he hoped to bring a fresh pragmatic voice to Washington, where “too many have come to believe — nothing can get done.”
“We need someone in the United States Senate who’s actually had to work on difficult problems, who’s actually had to find people jobs, who’s actually had people standing in front of their homes and had to work on everything from getting people into food stamp programs to helping young people better afford college,” Booker said.
In his 20-minute speech, Booker vowed to pursue common ground relentlessly if he heads to Washington, WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported.
“We must bring people together,” he said.
The mayor of the largest city in New Jersey listed his accomplishments in trying to turn Newark around, from bringing jobs to reducing crime. He said he has done it all by working together.
“We have changed a city despite the cynicism of so many who believe that real change here in Newark was impossible,” he said.
As 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reported, Booker is a Stanford graduate who went on to serve as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, and then attended Yale University law school. He has served almost two terms as Newark mayor.
Republicans were already on the attack against Booker Saturday, calling him a “celebrity” who is not an equally good candidate. Booker said he has faced criticism his entire life, and he can handle it.
“I do not run from challenges,” he said.
Booker said he will campaign day and night over the next 66 days to win the primary for the special election.
Meanwhile, Bradley, who endorsed Booker, called him “the right person for the right office at the right time.”
Reps. Frank Pallone and Rush Holt are also planning to enter the Democratic primary, which is scheduled for Aug. 13. The only Republican running so far is Steve Lonegan, a former Bogota mayor who runs the New Jersey office of Americans for Prosperity.
Candidates have until 4 p.m. Monday to file petitions to enter the race.
The Newark mayor had been expected to run.Booker announced last year that he was considering seeking the office in 2014, and he has been raising money for a run.
Mayor Booker’s Senate plans mean that the future of Newark will have to be left to others, which could be cause for concern for some voters.
“I think it will come out in this election that some people feel so that he left early,” Dr Jonathan Wharton a Political Science Professor at Stevens Institute of Technology told CBS 2’s Steve Langford.
Lautenberg died Monday at the age of 89. He passed away at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell due to complications from viral pneumonia.
Ben Dworkin, who heads up Rider University’s Institute for New Jersey, says name recognition will make him a favorite among Democrats seeking to replace Lautenberg.
“He is a personality that people from the northern part of the state to the southern part of the state already know,” Dworkin told WCBS 880’s Levon Putney.
Dworkin thinks Booker would remain the favorite against any Republican challenger, whoever might run against former Bogota mayor Steve Lonegan.
The special primary is scheduled for August with a general election in October.
On Thursday, Gov. Chris Christie appointed state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa as a temporary successor to Lautenberg
Chiesa, a registered Republican, will hold the office until the special election takes place in October and Christie said Chiesa will not run for the seat. He will take office on Monday.
“I said on Monday that I was going to select the person who I thought would be the best person to represent New Jersey between now and Oct. 16,” Christie said Friday. “During the last few days as I’ve gotten to deliberate on this issue, it became clear to me that Attorney General Chiesa would be the best person to represent the people of the State of New Jersey in the United States Senate.”
“He will not be a candidate in the primary or general election and that’s his decision,” said Christie.
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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)