Newark’s hero mayor, Cory Booker, the Democratic politician who can seemingly do no wrong, officially declared his candidacy today for the U.S. Senate seat left vacant after the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg last week. At a press conference announcing his much-anticipated run, Booker acknowledged the gridlock in Congress and his critics (“Too much Twitter! Too much exposure!”), but said, “I do not run from challenges. I run towards them.” Booker will now move on to a three-way race against two Democratic congressmen, where he is a favorite to win. But will Washington change the down-to-earth leader? Not on Twitter at least, where he promised his 1.4 million followers that if elected, he’ll still respond to them on the social site.
The 44-year-old Booker had previously filed paperwork to run in the 2014 Senate election, but had not officially declared his candidacy when Lautenberg died. Many in the political world considered it all but a certainty he would win a Democratic primary next year.
But Gov. Chris Christie's plans to replace Lautenberg - an August primary and October general election - "throws a monkey wrench" in what were probably carefully laid plans for a candidacy, Ben Dworkin, the director of the Rider Institute for New Jersey Politics, said this week.
"I don’t think it’s necessarily clear that it’s Cory Booker," Dworkin said of the Democratic primary winner. "I think the governor assumed it was going to be Cory Booker. But again, low turnout, the middle of August, Booker has distinct advantages, but not as many as he would have in 2014."
Booker, a Democrat who was elected mayor in 2006, will likely face stiff competition from U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6th Dist.), Rep. Rush Holt (D-12th Dist.) and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) in the Democratic primary. All three have either declared their candidacies or expressed an interest in running for Lautenberg’s seat.
In early polling of a hypothetical Senate primary, responses gave Booker 59 percent of the vote, making him an immediate target for potential Democratic opponents as well as Republicans with eyes towards the general election.