Lautenberg said Thursday that he will not run for re-election in 2014. A spirited Democratic primary is expected in the race to replace him.
Pallone registered in the single digits in the survey. But early polls like these are typically a result of name identification.
In any case, local Democrats treat Pallone as a serious contender. Democrats describe his work ethic with affection. Sources say he has been a familiar face at events all over New Jersey for years.
He’s represented the Garden State in Congress since 1989, which means he has represented four different versions of his House district that covers a large swath of the state.
Pallone also has $3.4 million in his campaign account. That will go far in one of the most expensive statewide media markets in the country. New Jersey includes both the New York City and Philadelphia media markets. None of the other often-mentioned contenders for the Democratic primary — Sweeney and Oliver — responded to requests for comment as of press time.
But there could be another candidate from the delegation. Aside from Pallone, other New Jersey members have long coveted the seat.
Republican Rep. Scott Garrett declined to comment on whether he will run for the Senate, but he did note the state’s expensive media markets.
Television personality Geraldo Rivera has also expressed interest in running as a Republican, but few strategists take the idea seriously.
In any case, Lautenberg’s shadow over the primary to succeed him will loom large. Both Booker and Pallone were quick to praise Lautenberg on Thursday.
Pallone called him “an extraordinary leader in the U.S. Senate, and he has served as a moral guidepost on so many critical issues.”
“On a personal note, Sen. Lautenberg has been a strong model of leadership and service to me since before I even considered entering elected office,” Booker said.
Lautenberg declined to say whether he would endorse anyone in the primary in a brief interview at the Capitol. When asked whether Booker had reached out to him following his announcement, it was clear the bad blood persists between the two Democrats.
“He doesn’t have my number,” Lautenberg replied.
Meredith Shiner, Joshua Miller and Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.