The much-anticipated matchup between New Jersey heavyweights Gov. Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker is not to be.
Many political observers have salivated over the possibility of a showdown between Christie and Booker in the 2013 gubernatorial election. But Booker dashed those hopes Dec. 20 when—perhaps bowing to the political reality of Christie’s overwhelming popularity—he announced his interest in running for a spot on Capitol Hill.
“I will explore the possibility of running for the United State Senate in 2014,” the Stanford, Oxford and Yale graduate announced on his web site.
If he does, he would likely face the popular Sen. Frank Lautenberg in the Democratic primary, and, according to recent polls, he would win.
A Public Policy Polling survey in late November showed that Democrats, by a 59-22 margin, prefer Booker over Lautenberg. Booker also outpolled Lautenberg among respondents who were asked their preference between Booker and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, the likely Republican candidate for the Senate seat. If Lautenberg bows out, Booker would be a strong favorite, with a 48 percent approval rating, over Reps. Rob Andrews and Frank Pallone, two Senate hopefuls. He was preferred by 48 percent of those polled over the two members of the New Jersey delegation to the House of Representatives. In the November survey, Andrew drew a 17 percent approval rating while Pallone drew 13 percent from voters asked who they preferred for the Senate seat.
One reason for the electorate’s support for Booker is their desire for a fresh face in the Senate, according to political observers. While Lautenberg’s constituents overwhelming approve of his performance, many think he is too old for re-election in 2014. The senator, now 88 years old, would be 90 come election time.
The 43-year-old Booker, in comparison, is seen by many as an energetic leader and rising political star, who knows how to get things done.
Since he took the helm of the beleaguered city—whose previous leadership was often steeped in corruption and dysfunction—Booker has performed miracles and jumpstarted the city’s turnaround, according to some.
As the Newark Star-Ledger said in its 2010 mayoral endorsement: “Under Booker, gun violence in Newark has been cut in half. The city payroll has shrunk by 17 percent. New parks have sprouted up across the city. The Housing Authority has been brought back from the dead, and the pace of new construction of affordable housing has picked up.
“New programs have helped hundreds of released prisoners find jobs, arranged financing for small businesses and helped families combat foreclosure. The list of innovative programs goes on.”
In video posted on YouTube, which is titled “Finishing the Work We Started,” Booker said that a Senate run would give him more time to complete the initiatives that were started under his administration than a gubernatorial campaign.
“There’s still a lot to do,” he said after listing some of his administration’s accomplishments. “So, let there be no doubt: I will complete my full second term as mayor of Newark, N.J…. I will finish out this work that we’ve begun.”