Sen. Frank Lautenberg to retire

Sen. Frank Lautenberg won't seek reelection

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Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-New Jersey. (U.S. Senate portrait) Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-New Jersey. (U.S. Senate portrait)

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., will not seek reelection in 2014, according to a statement released by his office on Thursday.

Lautenberg, 89, plans to formally announce his plans at an event in Paterson, his hometown, on Friday.

"This is not the end of anything, but rather the beginning of a two-year mission to pass new gun safety laws, protect children from toxic chemicals, and create more opportunities for working families in New Jersey," Lautenberg said in a statement. "While I may not be seeking re-election, there is plenty of work to do before the end of this term and I'm going to keep fighting as hard as ever for the people of New Jersey in the U.S. Senate."  

Lautenberg was first elected in 1982. After retiring once before in 2001, he returned to the U.S. Senate in 2003 after replacing embattled Sen. Bob Torricelli on the ballot.

His retirement clears a path for Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat, to succeed him. Several weeks ago, Booker said he would pass on running for governor and instead "explore" a run for the Senate, which prompted Lautenberg to make several less-than-flattering statements about the mayor.

In a statement, Booker praised Lautenberg's leadership.

"Senator Frank Lautenberg has been a champion for the people of New Jersey for decades and his legacy of service will improve the lives of all American's for years to come," Booker said. "Since I have been mayor, he has been an invaluable partner in so many of Newark's recent accomplishments and successes. I look forward to continuing to work with him for the remainder of his term in the senate and for many years to come."

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican who has called Lautenberg a "partisan hack" and an "embarrassment," tweeted kinder sentiments on Thursday."

"@FrankLautenberg & I have had our differences through the years...," the governor tweeted. "...but I've always respected him for his tenacity, devotion to NJ & his love & commitment to public service. ... I'll always be grateful for his doggedness in fighting with me & the delegation to ensure congressional passage of #Sandy aid package. ... I wish him the best in his retirement."

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