Cory Booker announces Senate candidacy Saturday

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WASHINGTON (CNN) — Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker on Saturday declared his candidacy for the Senate in this year’s special election to fill the seat of the late Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg.

Booker’s campaign sent out an email release the day before stating that the mayor would make an announcement regarding his candidacy at the event in Newark, followed by a similar event a few hours later in the southern part of the Garden State.

At Saturday’s news conference, Booker cited a track record of compromise as Mayor of Newark as an example of how he can help change gridlock in Washington.

“I am here because I believe that people who care, can find solutions to even the most difficult problems. I am here because when we work together, I know from experience that there is no problem we can’t solve,” Booker said.

Lautenberg died Monday at age 89 and was buried on Friday at Arlington National Cemetery. On Tuesday New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced plans to hold a special Senate election this year, with the Democratic and Republican primaries on August 13 and the general election on October 16. The winner would serve the final 14 1/2 months of Lautenberg’s term. An election to a full six-year term will be in November 2014.

CNN reported Thursday that Booker had begun collecting signatures to run in the special election. Candidates hoping to run in the race must hand in 1,000 signatures by 4 p.m. ET on Monday.

Booker, considered a rising star in the Democratic Party, earlier this year announced he was exploring a run for Senate in 2014. He made the news before Lautenberg announced he would not run for re-election.

Booker will become the second Democrat to formally jump into the race. Rep. Rush Holt, who’s in his eight term representing New Jersey’s 12th Congressional District, said in a statement that on Thursday that, “I ask for your support as I seek to serve as your Senator in that seat. The reason is simple: I believe I am the best candidate to continue the passionate advocacy for progressive values that Sen. Lautenberg exemplified.”

Rep. Frank Pallone, who’s also considered likely to make a bid, has not made any announcements. A Democratic source with knowledge of Pallone’s thinking told CNN “an announcement will be forthcoming” but added that it would come after the late senator’s funeral process is over, “out of respect to Lautenberg, who was a close friend to the congressman.”

Pallone has the biggest war chest of the three Democrats, with approximately $3 million cash on hand. Booker, who is seen as the favorite in the Democratic nomination battle and who has the potential to raise a large sum of money thanks to his star power and national connections, currently has a smaller war chest than Pallone, with Holt having around $700,000 in the bank.

On the GOP side, former Bogota, New Jersey, Mayor Steve Lonegan says he’ll run. Other possible candidates include Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, Rep. Jon Runyan, and biotech executive John Crowley. State senators Joe Kyrillos and Tom Kean Jr., who have both run for the Senate in the past, seem to be leaning against making another bid this time around. Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnic has said he won’t run.

Christie on Thursday appointed state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa, a fellow Republican, to serve as interim senator until the October election but Chiesa said he won’t run.

As for Booker, he challenged critics Saturday who say Washington can’t be fixed, a sure campaign theme of his going forward.

“We in New Jersey know a thing or two about toughness, about resiliency and strength. I know this and I’ve seen it over and over at every point in my career as an elected official. I know the truth of who we are when we are together and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, especially here in New Jersey, that there is nothing we can’t do together,” Booker said.

CNN’s Greg Clary contributed to this report.

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