(CNN) - Newark Mayor Cory Booker will not challenge New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in next year's gubernatorial race and will instead explore a run for U.S. Senate, Booker announced Thursday.
Booker will run to replace fellow Democrat Sen. Frank Lautenberg when his term is up in 2014. Lautenberg, who will turn 89 in January, is the oldest currently serving senator and has not indicated if he will run for reelection.
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"Let there be no doubt, I will complete my full second term as mayor. As for my political future, I will explore the possibility of running for The United States Senate in 2014," Booker wrote in an op-ed in New Jersey's Star-Ledger.
"As I explore a run for the United States Senate, I look forward to consulting with Senator Lautenberg. 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."
"I believe it is in the interests of Newark that I get fully involved in New Jersey's 2013 elections," he continued. "No one will fight harder than me for the Democratic ticket this fall, from the top to the bottom. Newark is my city, New Jersey is my State – I intend to be of service to them both now and for the rest of my life."
Christie's approval ratings spiked following his response to Superstorm Sandy, and polls pitting the two Garden State leaders against each other show the Republican governor ahead in a potential gubernatorial match up. A poll from Quinnipiac University, taken November 19-25, showed Christie with a 53%-35% lead over Booker.
Christie, speculated to have 2016 White House aspirations, announced in late November that he would seek reelection as New Jersey's governor. New Jersey and Virginia are the only two states to hold gubernatorial contests next year.
Booker's announcement opens the field for other Democrats running for New Jersey governor, including New Jersey state Sen. Barbara Buono who officially announced her bid for governor in an email to supporters earlier this month.
Other Democrats considering running for the governor's office are state Sen. Richard Codey – who served as governor for 14 months following the November 2004 resignation of then-Gov. Jim McGreevey – as well as Assembly members Lou Greenwald and John Wisniewski.
In a statement Wednesday, Lautenberg spokesmen Caley Gray said the senator is not focused on politics right now.
"Senator Lautenberg is focused on passing a critical disaster relief bill for New Jersey and addressing America's broken gun laws," Gray said. "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. This is not the time for political distractions and the Senator will address politics next year."
Booker, who gave a prime time address at the party's convention, is considered a rising star in Democratic Party. He announced earlier in December that he would make a decision on whether to challenge Christie within the month.
CNN's Paul Steinhauser, Kevin Liptak and Dana Davidsen contributed to this report.
Smart - he would've lost.
I don't think so!
Only Republicans would hope Booker would challenge Christie, they're mad at Christie because he and Obama hugged. Booker you are a great Statesman and a great Democrat.
That will likely disappoint the Socialist Party.
How come Haley gets to appoint a replacement for DeMint and Deval Patrick doesn't? Patrick should appoint himself.
It's the way their State Constitution is written. Red states always appoint a replacement, but blue states do the Democratic thing and have an election for all parties. Apparently the reds are terrified they might lose their deathgrip on power if they actually held an election.
A little history is in order here, Malory...
Massachusetts was always an "appointment" state (contrary to your red / blue statement). Then, in 2004, when the state legislature (85% democrat) was convinced John Kerry was going to be elected president, they changed the rules to make his replacement via special election, since then governor Mitt Romney surely would have appointed a Republican to fill the seat. Lo and behold, 2009 rolls around and Sen. kennedy dies. Now who would have thought that the state legislature (repeating – 85% democrat) would AGAIN change the rules to have an "interim" appointment of Sen. Kirk (democrat) by Governor Patrick (democrat) for 160 days... just long enough to provide the critical 60th vote in the senate to advance Obamacare. Scott Brown was then elected by the people of MA in a special election. But nooooooo... you go on believing that "blue" states have "democracy" in their best interests... what a bunch of... well, you know what.
He could be president
well we dont know what change his mind or did brown knew what type of person he was up against win win or lose lose
He will easily win a Senate run
Then he can become governor
Booker, Don't waist time and money to challenge Christie who has been supported 77% by residents in New Jersey.
Senate will be a Great position for Booker!
Booker will win the Senate election easily-he's being groomed by the party for a presidential run in 2016 or 2020.
I like Booker. He goes out and gets involved with the concerns people are talking about. He is a great example of a man of the people.
And we kow what he is like when life gets tough. He risked his own life to save a neighbor in a house fire. No political spin and focus groups here. He is a hero, a man of character, and he has PROVEN himself as far as I am concerned. He has my vote!
As a New Jersey resident I applaud Bookers actions HOWEVER I do NOT live near Newark – the problem with Bookers comments is that he is all for helping Newark – about about the rest of the State?
Cory Booker has one of the most important qualities in a leader – a great heart.
I agree he belongs in national politics where he can help everyone and not just NJ residents. Love Booker and will vote for him in a minute.
Very good man-wish him much luck. We need more of his character in DC.
For those of you who don't remember, this was the mayor who ran into his neighbor's house when it was on fire and saved her.
I met him in Scranton back in October. He is an all-around great and honorable man. I wish him the best of luck with his future endeavors.
"For those of you who don't remember, this was the mayor who ran into his neighbor's house when it was on fire and saved her."
Very brave of him. How does that make him qualified to hold high office?
Good move Mayor Booker. Get elected to the Senate then start to prepare to be our next African American President. I can see Mayor Booker or Gov. Deval Patrick as great possibilities for the Presidency in 2024 or sooner.
Not sure how effectively you can serve anyone as a city mayor when you spend so much time in a TV studio discussing things other than your city and its needs for its citizens. His role playing is part of what is phony and wrong about career politicians. Who pays for the car service to deliver him to/from the TV folks I wonder.