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Booker: ‘Clearly’ interested in Senate bid, but focus now on helping win state races

Newark Mayor Cory Booker said Sunday that he would focus his attention on helping his state elect a Democratic governor before addressing a possible 2014 Senate bid.

Asked on CBS’s “Face the Nation” if he would seek the 2014 seat to be vacated by retiring Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Booker said “clearly it’s a job that I’m interested in.”

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“I’ll spend the coming months working on and exploring that, but right now we have one election in New Jersey and that’s our state-wide gubernatorial and legislative elections. As a Democrat in New Jersey, that’s where my focus is,” he added. “Next year’s election for Senate will take care of itself.”

Booker’s path to the Senate opened up this week after Lautenberg announced Thursday that he would retire from the upper chamber. 

"While I may not be seeking reelection, there is plenty of work to do before the end of this term and I'm going to keep fighting as hard as ever for the people of New Jersey in the U.S. Senate,” said the 89-year old senator.

Booker had indicated earlier this year that he was exploring a run for Lautenberg’s seat in 2014, but had not said whether he would be willing to launch a primary challenge against the long-serving fellow Democrat.

His decision, though, had sparked criticism from other Democrats in the state, who had hoped Booker would instead challenge incumbent GOP Gov. Chris Christie (N.J.) this year.

Lautenberg’s decision will likely clear a path for other possible contenders, including Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), whom many sources say is considering a bid. 

 “I hope to be one of those people that the residents of New Jersey will consider giving me that honor to fight for them on a federal level,” said Booker on Sunday.

But he added: “We in New jersey take one election at a time. 2014 is a long way off.”