Newark Mayor Cory Booker joins US Senate race in NJ

Newark Mayor Cory Booker announced Saturday that he will seek election to the U.S. Senate to finish the term of the late New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg.

TRENTON, New Jersey — Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who has used his social-media skills and political savvy to gain national prominence, on Saturday formally announced he's in the race to finish the U.S. Senate term of the late Frank Lautenberg.

The 44-year-old Democrat made his candidacy official at a news conference in Newark, New Jersey's largest city. He was joined by former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley, a former pro basketball player who for 18 years held the seat Booker is seeking.

Bradley, who endorsed Booker, called him "the right person for the right office at the right time."

Related: Christie sets Oct. election to fill Lautenberg's seat

Booker began raising money for a Senate run even before Lautenberg, who died Monday, announced retirement plans in February. He had raised $1.9 million by the end of the last reporting period in March.

Reps. Frank Pallone and Rush Holt are also planning to enter the Democratic primary. Booker is considered the early front-runner.

Pallone, 61, had $3.7 million in his campaign coffers at the end of March and has deep union support. Holt, 64, a former research physicist, had $800,000 on hand.

Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, announced this week that there would be party primaries Aug. 13 and a special general election Oct. 16.

The only Republican running so far is Steve Lonegan, a former mayor of Bogota, N.J., who runs the state office of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group that advocates deficit reduction, lowering taxes, and reducing regulations on business.

Related: Frank Lautenberg hailed as humble, tenacious

Booker has 1.4 million followers on Twitter — or five for every resident of the city where he's the mayor. He tweets frequently, answering questions about city services, posting about his workouts and, perhaps most often, trying to provide inspiration.

He's frequently gotten public attention, from staging a hunger strike to protest drug-dealing to rescuing a woman from a burning home last year. His life story is also captivating. He grew up in Harrington Park as the son of civil rights activists who were among the first black executives at IBM, went to Stanford, was a Rhodes Scholar, earned a law degree from Yale and took a job with the Urban Justice Center, which provides legal and other services to the vulnerable. He also moved to a public housing complex in Newark.

Booker started fundraising for a 2014 Senate campaign after announcing he would not run against Christie for governor, citing his desire to finish his term in Newark. The term expires in June 2014, meaning if he wins the Senate election he'll go back on his word.

Booker's critics in Newark see him as an ambitious interloper who spends too much of his time outside the city.

Associated Press writer Katie Zezima contributed from Newark.

___

Join MSN News on social

Share your point of view with us on Facebook

Get the latest news and updates on Twitter

See photos and videos on tumblr