By David Jones and Edith Honan
June 7 Newark Mayor Cory Booker was expected to
announce on Saturday he will run for U.S. Senate in New Jersey
in a Democratic primary set for August to fill the seat of the
late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a source close to Booker said on
The campaign staffer asked to remain anonymous because he
was unauthorized to speak publicly about the announcement.
Booker had previously announced his intention to seek
Lautenberg's seat in 2014, after ruling out challenging Gov.
Chris Christie, a Republican, in this year's election.
After Lautenberg's death on Monday, Christie called a
special election to fill the remainder of Lautenberg's term.
Democrats immediately criticized the decision, calling it a
calculated attempt by Christie to avoid appearing on the same
ballot as Booker - among the state's most popular Democrats.
Christie is leading his Democratic challenger, Barbara
Buono, by more than 30 points, and is seen as hoping a blow-out
victory would leave him well-positioned to seek the U.S.
presidential nomination in 2016, and cement his reputation as
that rare politician who can govern as a tough Republican
executive while maintaining a strong Democratic following.
The special election, including the August primaries and the
general election three weeks ahead of the normally scheduled
November election, will cost the state about $24 million.
Christie dismissed the Democratic criticism, saying New
Jersey should have a voter-approved representative in the Senate
as soon as possible.
On Thursday, he appointed the state's attorney general
Jeffrey Chiesa, who like Christie is a Republican, to fill the
seat until the general special election in October. Chiesa said
he would not compete for the seat in the special election.
Booker, mayor of the state's most populous city, is among
New Jersey's best-known Democrats.
More than half of voters in New Jersey hold a "favorable"
view of him, making the Newark mayor among the state's most
popular Democrats, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton poll from
last November. But in a head-to-head match-up with Christie, the
Republican governor would have defeated Booker 53 to 34 percent,
the poll found.
"He comes into this race with an incalculable advantage in
that he is better known than anyone else on the Democratic
side," said Ross Baker, professor of political science at
Rutgers University in New Brunswick. "The many years in which
he's been in the public eye as mayor of Newark, has projected
him statewide for sure, and well beyond the state of New
A former city councilman in Newark, Booker faced the city's
long-time mayor, Sharpe James, in 2002 in one of the most hotly
contested political races in the country. Booker lost the race
but his campaign was the subject of an Oscar-nominated 2005
documentary called "Street Fight."
Booker was elected four years later, in 2006.
He is credited with bringing in $1 billion in new
development into Newark, including the city's first new downtown
hotel in 40 years and the relocation of major companies,
including Panasonic, which is building a new North American
headquarters in downtown.
Booker has also helped bolster his national reputation with
his prolific use of Twitter and by campaigning for Democrats
He has also built an unusual alliance with Christie,
especially in education. Both men have backed the development of
new charter schools in Newark.
Booker will enter the primary race against U.S. Rep. Rush
Holt, a seven-term congressman. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. of Long
Branch is also widely expected to enter the Senate race.
Officials with the Holt campaign said they are not deterred
by the name recognition that Booker has, noting that 75 percent
of Booker's campaign donations are from out of state and that
the ultimate winner in the primary will be determined by local
"In many ways Mayor Booker has some strong name recognition
around the country, but this is an election of New Jersey
voters," said Jackie Cornell-Bechelli, political director for
the Holt campaign and the former state director of President
Obama's re-election campaign.
Booker's announcement is expected at an 11 a.m. event at the
Newark offices of Audible.com, which the city says is its
fastest-growing private employer.