There’s been a bit of a Cory Booker backlash recently, and now fellow New Jersey Democrats are joining in, reminding him that publicly pushing an elderly colleague out of office isn’t very nice. On Monday, state Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg admonished Booker for announcing that in 2014 he’ll be running for the Senate seat currently occupied by 88-year-old Frank Lautenberg. At the end of a BlueJersey.com blog post criticizing Chris Christie, Weinberg says she had hoped Booker would run for governor. “But when you decided against that move, you agreed you would be working hard to elect whoever that person will be, and to help us put a Democrat back as Governor,” writes Weinberg. “So stop the U.S. Senate distraction, give Senator Lautenberg the time to concentrate on getting us federal Sandy help and the respect of making a decision about his re-election in his own time. You are a visionary thinker and a great orator, but New Jersey and our residents are really bigger than whatever your future is to be.”
Weinberg isn’t the only New Jersey Democrat grumbling about Booker, but she’s one of the few to go on the record. Politicker reports that some in Booker’s party think his decision to open a Senate campaign account last week was premature. “Once again, Mayor Booker is being a self-promoter instead of a real Democrat or a team player,” said a Lautenberg aide. Sources added that the senator is miffed, and might run for reelection just to create problems for Booker.
The criticism put Booker in an awkward position. In an interview later in the day with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, the Newark mayor repeatedly claimed that declaring you’re interested in running for another person’s seat doesn’t mean you’re trying to push them out of office. “He’s been my senator for a really long time,” Booker said of Lautenberg, adding that “you want to give him strength right now” since he and other lawmakers are pushing for Hurricane Sandy aid, “because these are tough battles for Democratic Senators.” Booker went on to declare that Lautenberg is “strong as an ox.” Hopefully he’s not strong enough to shovel voters’ driveways and drag them from burning buildings, or Booker could have a real problem on his hands.