Cory Booker will not run for governor of New Jersey, the Newark mayor announced in a video uploaded to his YouTube page Thursday. Instead, the popular Democrat and high-profile ally of the LGBT community will explore a bid for the U.S. Senate.
Booker's announcement surprised many who suspected he would challenge New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) in the 2013 gubernatorial race and has raised questions about the future of marriage-equality efforts in the Garden State.
"Let there be no doubt, I will complete my full second term as mayor of Newark, N.J.," Booker said. "And as for my political future, I will explore the possibility of running for the United States Senate in 2014."
Booker added that he looked forward to consulting with Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who has served in the Senate since 2003. Lautenberg has not announced if he will seek re-election, but as the Senate’s oldest member he would be 90 years old if he were to run for another six-year term in 2014.
Christie's handling of Hurricane Sandy has seen the Republican governor's approval rating reach all-time highs. According to a Monmouth University/ Asbury Park Press Pollreleased earlier this month, Christie's approval rating among registered voters stands at 69 percent.
Booker's strong support for marriage equality left some to expect a showdown on the issue with Christie, who vetoed legislation in February that would have legalized same-sex marriage in the state. Advocates have vowed to override Christie's veto and have until January 2014 to do so.
As a mayor, Booker's profile in the Democratic Party has skyrocketed in recent years. In September, he addressed the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., and in October spoke at the Human Rights Campaign’s National Dinner.
During his remarks at the HRC dinner, Booker promised that marriage equality in New Jersey would become law one way or another.
"When that bill is signed, I might have a very good seat for it," Booker said to cheers, alluding to his previous gubernatorial ambitions.
In his video statement released earlier today, Booker said marriage equality must be delivered to all Americans.
Despite Booker's decision, advocates tell Metro Weekly that Booker's decision to run for the Senate instead of governor will not hinder their efforts to secure same-sex couples' right to marry in New Jersey.
"Our operating principle is that we need to work with Garden State Equality and to line up the voters for an override of Gov. Christie's veto," said Marc Solomon, National Campaign Director for Freedom to Marry. "We, of course, would love to see a pro-equality governor of New Jersey, but I can’t say his decision really changes our own approach."
HRC spokesperson Michael Cole-Schwartz agreed, stating, "We believe we can make marriage equality a reality in New Jersey before the next Governor's race, making the question of who is running moot."
Christie vetoed the legislation on the grounds that New Jersey voters should have the right to vote on same-sex marriage. The State Assembly passed the bill 42-33 and would need 54 votes to override Christie's veto. The State Senate, which approved the bill 24-16, would need 27 votes.
[Screen shot: Cory Booker announces Senate run (Courtesy of YouTube).]