New Jersey’s senior U.S. senator has formally decided not to run for a sixth term.
And now, Frank Lautenberg is laying out his agenda for the next two years, focusing on many of the same fights that built his political career.
Lautenberg got a warm welcome from friends and supporters in his hometown of Paterson where he made the official announced he won’t be seeking re-election next year.
“But I’m praying that something goes wrong, and I have to be here, ” he joked Friday.
The 89-year-old senator has spent 28 years in Washington where he’s made a career of taking on the alcohol, tobacco and gun industries. He says one of his biggest goals is to see through the passage of new gun laws, including an assault weapons ban.
“The president said he’s going to do it, and I believe him,” he said. “We’re going to work on that and get it done this time.”
Lautenberg also pledged his support for raising the minimum wage, improving public transportation, and helping the state recover from Hurricane Sandy.
Lautenberg did not take question on who he would like to see take the seat he’s held for 28 years. Speculation has centered on Newark Mayor Cory Booker.
“There are other people interested, you know that,” said Lautenberg.
One of them is Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver who was on hand in Paterson for the senator’s announcement. She wouldn’t comment on her own ambitions, but acknowledged that any candidate would benefit from the Lautenberg’s endorsement.“From South Jersey up to the Pennsylvania border, Frank Lautenberg is held in high esteem,” she said.Also in the room was state Sen. Barbara Buono, the only Democratic challenger so far to Gov. Chris Christie this year. She hasn’t gotten Lautenberg’s stamp of approval yet, but she says she wants to take a page out of his book.“I admire him for his grit, his toughness,” she said.
After nearly three decades of public service, Lautenberg says his message remains the same.
“And my message to young people in the room: This is a country where dreams are possible. You’re looking at it. We see it all the time and we have to continue to provide that incentive,” he said.
For his part, Lautenberg said he intends to continue doing “the right thing wherever I can.”