Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Lautenberg Focuses on His Future

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Lautenberg Focuses on His Future

Article excerpt

Frank Lautenberg declined to address the question of who would be his successor in the U.S. Senate on Friday, using a formal announcement of his decision not to seek another term to highlight issues he said would be the focus of his final two years in office.

"I'm not announcing my retirement today," Lautenberg, 89, said at a press conference in his hometown of Paterson. "I will be continuing in my mission to do the right thing whenever I can."

Lautenberg said he was committing himself to fight for gun safety legislation, reforming toxic chemical regulation and aid for victims of superstorm Sandy, among other issues.

The occasion, a largely ceremonial affair after Lautenberg made headlines when he first announced his decision Thursday, was held against a backdrop of rising speculation about who would be selected to run for his seat.

Lautenberg's retirement sets the stage for a likely Democratic primary in 2014 featuring Newark Mayor Cory Booker -- who irked Lautenberg by forming an exploratory committee in December -- Rep. Frank Pallone of Long Branch, and possibly others.

The open seat also could give Republicans a chance to break a 41- year streak of losses in Senate campaigns, especially if Governor Christie is reelected this year and can expand the party's strength at the local level.

Asked afterward whom he would endorse as his successor, Lautenberg joked that he would select himself, then offered another quip when the question was pressed again.

"I'd like to have my wife do it, but she's busy," he said.

The oldest member of the Senate and New Jersey's longest-serving senator, Lautenberg said he wanted to spend more time with his family, including grandchildren who live all over the country.

He said Thursday that he was dreading the rigors of another campaign when he would be 90 years old, but that his decision had nothing to do with his health. Lautenberg was diagnosed with cancer in 2010 but said he was "cancer-free" after treatment and returned to a vigorous schedule.

Lautenberg, who has been recovering from the flu, was flanked by his daughters and wife on the podium Friday. He frequently smiled and nodded at acquaintances in the crowd but remained collected throughout his remarks, which lasted fewer than 30 minutes and were frequently interrupted by loud applause. …

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