In a profile by the New York Times published online Tuesday, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) sounded a lot like a man ready to dig in his heels and take on a potential primary challenge from Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker (D).
The story in the Times indicated that Booker’s public interest in Lautenberg’s seat has re-invigorated the 89-year-old incumbent, who’s seemed to relish his growing rivalry with the popular mayor. Lautenberg has also been out front on a number of recent policy battles, from Hurricane Sandy relief to gun control. He told the Times that he intends to finish his job, while once again needling Booker in the process.
“I’m going to finish the work I’m doing,” Lautenberg said. “And he should finish the work he is doing instead of traipsing around the country.”
Booker’s decision to launch his campaign before Lautenberg finalized his own future plans offended plenty of people, according to the five-term senator. But Lautenberg, for his part, said he “doesn’t give a damn” about any perceived insult in Booker’s announcement.
“He doesn’t have to respect me,” Lautenberg said. “But other people were offended by it. And it won me a lot of friends.”
The December announcement by Booker immediately sparked tension between the two camps. Last month, Lautenberg insinuated that Booker deserved a ‘spanking’ and joked that traveling outside of Newark is one of the mayor’s favorite activities. Polls thus far have shown Booker to be the overwhelming preference of New Jersey Democrats to serve as the party’s nominee in next year’s Senate race.
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