Lautenberg Bashes Booker's Performance as Newark Mayor

Elahe Izadi
National Journal

Days after Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey compared Newark Mayor Cory Booker to one of his disobedient children who needs a spanking, he’s again criticizing the two-term mayor’s job performance.

“He’s got a lot of work to do -- a lot of work that should have been done and hasn’t been done,” Lautenberg told National Journal.

Lautenberg described Newark as a “city in desperate need of attention” and that “maybe if the mayor can solidify the fact that he wants to improve Newark by being there, things would be different. But he’s free to do as he wants to do.”

Booker intends to run for Senate, but Lautenberg, who turned 89 on Wednesday, hasn’t indicated he plans to retire.

Since his announcement via a Web video, Booker has been making the rounds on national cable news shows and directing his Twitter followers to Such tactics prompted an anonymous Lautenberg aide to describe Booker as “disrespectful” to Politico. Booker has since dialed back his rhetoric.

Lautenberg had been sick and absent from D.C. for weeks. His comments this week are his first public reactions to Booker’s announcement that he’s forgoing a competitive battle in 2013 against Republican Gov. Chris Christie in favor of running for a seat in the upper chamber in 2014.

News of the Senate run prompted a number of polls showing Booker would prove a formidable opponent – although the race isn’t for another year. Democratic voters favor Booker over Lautenberg 51 to 30 percent, in a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

Such numbers could be viewed as both a big boost to Booker and major incentive for Lautenberg to back down from a primary fight. But the senator says such polling numbers “have very little significance.”

“I know the people of New Jersey trust me,” he said. “They’ve seen me hard at work constantly for now 28 years.”