Cory Booker’s Challenge Gave Frank Lautenberg the Will to Keep Fighting

US Democrat Senator Frank Lautenberg (L) of New Jersey speaks about new legislation curbing gun violence during a press conference with Former White House Press Secretary Jim Brady on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, March 30, 2011. Brady was shot by John Hinkley, Jr, during his attempt to assassinate former US President Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Photo: SAUL LOEB/2011 AFP

Cory Booker’s decision to announce his Senate run before sitting Senator Frank Lautenberg confirmed he was retiring didn’t go over well, but the Newark mayor can take solace in the fact that that some good has come from the gaffe. According to the New York Times, Lautenberg was actually leaning toward stepping down, but Booker’s brash move gave the 89-year-old senator the motivation to stick around and fight for the seat.

The article by Raymond Hernandez and Kate Zernike (who penned that brutal Times report on Booker as a bogus superhero) portrays Lautenberg as a man who’s always been a fighter:

He is not among the senators complaining about the institution being “broken.” He loves the work, and has taken on some of the most difficult battles — with chemical companies, to maintain the Superfund program, with the National Rifle Association, to ban gun sales to people convicted of domestic violence and with the alcohol industry, to lower the legal blood-alcohol limit for driving to .08.

The perceived slight by Booker only reinvigorated Lautenberg, and recently he’s taken a lead role in the push for Hurricane Sandy aid and the fight for stricter gun control laws.

Supposedly, Booker ignored multiple warnings that could have prevented his generational clash with Lautenberg. In December, two of the senator’s aides told the mayor that Lautenberg was leaning toward retiring, and asked him to wait for the official announcement. When they realized Booker was planning to announce anyway, they suggested that he should say he’d only run if Lautenberg retires, but the mayor didn’t add that caveat, or even speak with the senator.

Many people close to Lautenberg say they think that ultimately he’ll still decide to step down. However, for the time being, he seems to be enjoying taking jabs at his young rival, and offered up a new one for the Times. “I’m going to finish the work I’m doing,” he said. “And he should finish the work he is doing instead of traipsing around the country.”

Booker’s Challenge Gave Lautenberg Will to Go On