A Democratic congressman is entering the special election for New Jersey's open United States Senate seat, setting up a three-way August primary.
PolitickerNJ.com reported that Rep. Rush Holt will enter the Democratic primary likely against Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Rep. Frank Pallone, who are both expected to run. Gov. Chris Christie (R) announced the Aug. 13 primary and Oct. 16 special election on Tuesday to fill the seat left vacant by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D), who died Monday. There has been speculation about Holt, Pallone and Booker running for the seat in 2014, when Lautenberg had planned to retire. Candidates for the August primary have until 4 p.m. Monday to submit petitions to the state Division of Elections.
Booker, who formed an exploratory committee earlier in 2013 to run for the Senate seat, has been largely silent about his plans. Booker increased his appearances at local Democratic events around the state after announcing the exploratory committee, but told The Huffington Post in May that he is focused on his mayoral duties and fundraising for the Senate race.
Pallone has been making the rounds as a potential Senate candidate for much of the year and has ties to Democratic leaders statewide, but he is trailing Booker in the polls.
Holt, a physicist, has served in Congress since 1999 representing a district largely centered in Princeton and Trenton in the central part of the state. In 2012, his district expanded into more of northern New Jersey, pulling in the Union County communities of Plainfield, Scotch Plains and Fanwood.
On the Republican side, several candidates have been mentioned for the seat including Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick and state Sen. Joe Kyrillos. Kyrillos, who beat a tea party challenger for his state Senate seat in Tuesday's primary. Kean lost a U.S. Senate race in 2006.
Former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, a conservative Republican who heads the New Jersey chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers' group, told the Star-Ledger that he is considering entering the Senate race. Lonegan lost bids in 2005 and 2009 for the GOP nomination for governor. State Sen. Mike Doherty, a conservative Republican is also considering entering the Senate race, the Star-Ledger reported.
Christie has not said who he will appoint to fill Lautenberg's seat; the appointee would serve until the new senator is elected in October. Christie is facing criticism for his decision to call the special election in October, with the August primary, instead of scheduling it for the regular November election. The cost for the special elections is $24 million.