The family of deceased New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg endorsed Rep. Frank Pallone over Newark Mayor Cory Booker for Lautenberg’s empty seat on Monday, criticizing Booker, the better-known candidate, as a “celebrity” whose “gimmicks” were unworthy of the Democratic nomination.
“Frank Pallone, like our Frank, will put in the hours and hard work necessary to fight for New Jersey in the Senate,” the statement read. “And Frank Pallone knows that gimmicks and celebrity status won’t get you very far in the real battles that Democrats face in the future.”
The statement said that Pallone would do a better job than Booker of continuing Lautenberg’s commitment to “be a workhorse, not a showhorse.” Lautenberg’s family also made disparaging reference to “glamorous headlines” and “glory,” both seemingly referring to Booker’s high-profile brushes with the national media, which have included appearances on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” and a spot on the 2011 edition of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” list.
The statement concluded simply, “We are saying: Stick with Frank.”
Since becoming mayor in 2006, Booker’s time in the public eye has been characterized by both ambition and patience. Now in his second term, Booker has made national headlines for rescuing a woman from a house on fire in 2012 and garnering a $100 million donation from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg toward Newark’s public schools in 2010. Yet Booker has also demurred from seeking higher office, declining an offer from the Obama administration in 2009 to run the White House Office of Urban Affairs, and in 2013 deciding not to run against Chris Christie for New Jersey governor.
The endorsement is unsurprising, given Booker and Pallone’s respective histories with Lautenberg. Booker’s decision to run for Senate angered some within Lautenberg’s office, who perceived it as disrespectful to the veteran Democrat.
Pallone’s numbers within the state may get a boost from the endorsement, but Booker still holds a massive lead over his Democratic opponents. A June 10 Quinnipiac University Poll found that 53 percent of voters would support Booker in the Democratic primary, versus 10 percent for Rep. Rush Holt and only 9 percent for Pallone.
The same poll also gave Booker a significant advantage in the general election. Fifty-four percent of voters surveyed would support Booker over potential Republican opponent Steve Lonegan, who received 27 percent of the vote.