TRENTON, N.J. The oldest member of the U.S. Senate, Democrat Frank Lautenberg plans to retire at the end of his current term, eliminating a probable primary battle with Cory Booker, the charismatic mayor of Newark.
Lautenberg, 89, confirmed Thursday that he would step down when his term ends in 2015 rather than seek re-election at age 90.
Early public opinion polls showed Booker as a strong favorite over the incumbent to keep the seat in Democratic hands, but Booker’s nascent campaign had been largely on hold until Lautenberg made a decision.
Others including Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone are also mulling a run.
No Republican has publicly expressed interest in the seat, but a spokesman for the national party viewed Gov. Chris Christie’s success in New Jersey as “a hopeful sign” for the GOP’s chances even though New Jersey voters haven’t sent a Republican to the Senate in 40 years.
Lautenberg was set to travel Friday to his hometown of Paterson to announce his retirement.