(CNN) - With a primary election just two months away, the first candidate in the race to succeed the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey jumped into the race Thursday.
The move by Democratic Rep. Rush Holt comes as a Democratic state senator in New Jersey vowed to introduce a bill that would move the date of the Garden State's November gubernatorial and legislative elections to the same day in October that Republican Gov. Chris Christie announced he would hold the general election in the special Senate contest.
Lautenberg, the longtime Democratic senator, died Monday at age 89.
Holt, a fellow Democrat who's in his eighth term representing New Jersey's 12th Congressional District, said Thursday morning in a statement that "I ask for your support as I seek to serve as your Senator in that seat. The reason is simple: I believe I am the best candidate to continue the passionate advocacy for progressive values that Sen. Lautenberg exemplified."
Although he has yet to make a formal announcement, Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker is collecting signatures to run in the special election. Spokesman Kevin Griffis confirmed the news to CNN, adding that "our volunteers are collecting signatures," which he said was consistent with the necessary steps they've been taking the past several months to prepare a candidacy. Candidates hoping to run in the race must hand in 1,000 signatures by 4 p.m. ET on Monday afternoon.
Booker, considered a rising star in the Democratic Party, earlier this year announced he was exploring a run for Senate in 2014. He made the news before Lautenberg, whose term was up in 2014, announced he would not run for re-election.
Rep. Frank Pallone, who's also considered likely to make a bid, has not made any announcements this week. A Democratic source with knowledge of Pallone's thinking tells CNN "an announcement will be forthcoming" but added that it would come after the late senator's funeral process is over, "out of respect to Lautenberg, who was a close friend to the congressman."
Pallone has the biggest war chest of the three men, with approximately $3 million cash on hand. Booker, who is seen as the favorite in the Democratic nomination battle, and who has the potential to raise a large sum of money thanks to his star power and national connections, currently has a smaller war chest than Pallone, with Holt having around $700,000 in the bank right now.
Tuesday Christie announced that the Democratic and Republican primaries will be held on August 13, with the general election coming on October 16. The winner would serve the final 14-and-a-half months of Lautenberg's term. An election to a full six-year term will be held in November 2014.
Christie's announcement to hold the special Senate election in October was instantly slammed by both national and state Democrats. They argued that the move was a political ploy by Christie, who is up for re-election this November. Legislative elections are also being held in November. If the special Senate election were held on the same day it would most likely increase Democratic turnout in what's considered a blue state, especially if Booker is on the ballot.
By placing the special Senate election in October, Christie avoids Democratic turnout tied to this issue possibly becoming a problem for him.
But Democrats attacked him because of the cost of holding the special Senate election in October rather than waiting a few weeks till the already scheduled general election, saying Christie's wasting taxpayer dollars.
The New Jersey Office of Legislative Services estimates it will cost $12 million to state taxpayers to conduct such a general election.
Christie said Tuesday that state law only permits the option of an October special election or an election in 2014. And he added that "there's no political purpose" behind his decision on the election date.
A Democratic state senator, stating that "we've got to start thinking outside the box," says she'll introduce a bill as early as Thursday which would move the November general election to October 16, saving the taxpayers millions of dollars.
"This is at a time when we don't have money to waste" Sen. Shirley Turner told CNN, adding that she came up with the idea Wednesday.
Turner says the fellow Democratic lawmakers she's talked to are supportive of her move. She hopes to pass the bill through committee next week, with a vote by both houses of the legislature, which are controlled by the Democrats, before the current legislative session ends later in June.
A political adviser close to the governor, who asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely, told CNN that "we aren't surprised she (Turner) would introduce legislation solely for partisan gain."