Lautenberg Turns 89, Poll Negative

Photograph by Chris Kleponis/Bloomberg

Mitch Behm, assistant inspector general of the U.S. Transportation Department, left, and Senator Frank Lautenberg, center, a Democrat from New Jersey, before the start of a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing in Washington.

Frank Lautenberg might not be having such a good birthday: A new poll says the U.S. senator from New Jersey is vulnerable, and another high-ranking Democrat says he’s weighing whether to take on Gov. Chris Christie in November or seek the Senate seat next year.

The Democrat, who turned 89 today, doesn’t deserve to be re-elected, voters said in the Quinnipiac University poll by a margin of 45 to 36 percent. Seventy-one percent of those surveyed said his age makes work in the Senate too difficult, and just 21 percent said it gives him “wisdom and experience.”

Caley Gray, a spokesman for Lautenberg, didn’t immediately return an e-mail or phone call seeking comment.

State Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Democrat from West Deptford, said he’s “keeping his options open” on whether he’ll challenge Christie in November or seek a seat in Washington in 2014. Sweeney in December filed papers with the Federal Election Commission to run for Senate.

“It’s an exploratory thing,” he said today by telephone. “I’m looking at that, and I’m looking at a run for governor. I have a lot of options.”

Sweeney’s decision-making harkens to New Jersey’s drama last month over whether popular Newark Mayor Cory Booker would opt to challenge Christie in the fall or go for federal office. Booker ended up ruling out a challenge to Christie and has formed a Senate exploratory committee.

At least two other Democrats have said they might have their eyes on Lautenberg’s seat. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, a Democrat from East Orange, told the Star-Ledger of Newark that she’s considering a run. The state’s largest paper also said U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone is eyeing it as well.




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