In a local radio interview Thursday evening, Newark mayor Cory Booker refused to confirm that he would run for U.S. Senate, saying only, "I'm exploring that viability" — a variation of the line he has repeated on air and in print since announcing his ambition for higher office last December.
Asked directly by Andrew Meyer, host of WBGO's "Newark Today," whether he would or would not run for Senate, Booker said, "No, what I am running right now is the city of Newark."
"I'm not bonding myself to doing it, and I'm not making any formal announcement," said Booker. "It's really my intention. It's a job that I want, but I'm not gonna flip on a campaign operation right now."
Later in the interview, Meyer cited a Quinnipiac University poll out Thursday — the findings show the mayor would "trounce" Geraldo Rivera, the Fox News host who is said to be weighing his own Senate bid — but Booker wouldn't play along. "I heard I also trounced Kermit the Frog as well," he said. "Any poll about individuals is premature."
When Booker first said last December that he would "consider" a run in 2014, it was for a Senate seat still occupied by the 89-year-old Democrat, Frank Lautenberg. But despite Lautenberg's recent announcement that he would retire in 2014 — making way for the Newark mayor, and for other potential Senate hopefuls — Booker has kept his ambitions unofficial, in an effort now to keep the focus, his and the media's, on this year's N.J. gubernatorial race.
"I've been in touch with Senate Buono this week," said Booker, of the race's presumptive Democratic nominee, state Senator Barbara Buono, who is up against Republican incumbent governor Chris Christie. "She's getting a lot of Democrats like me out there working for her already. That's where my focus is."
The Newark mayor, though, is said to be raising cash for his campaign already, and is heading, BuzzFeed confirmed last week, to a fundraiser in Palm Beach, Fla., in March
Booker, who has fewer than 500 days left in City Hall, also stressed that he has more to accomplish before the end of his second, and final, term in Newark. "As mayor, I've got 500 days left, and I'm in a hurry," he said. "I'm gonna run this city until my very last minute."
Booker made reference to a clock in his office — given to him by New York City's Michael Bloomberg, a fellow mayor whose last term is also nearing an end — with a note that read, "Don't count the days, make the days count."
The mayor added: "I will go on and be Senator, God willing, but I will still be a resident of the city of Newark."