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Newark Mayor Cory Booker formally declared his candidacy for U.S. Senate over the weekend. He made his candidacy official at a news conference in Newark, the city where he’s served as one of the most high-profile mayors in the country since 2006. Booker will vie for the seat vacated by U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died last week at age 89.

Reps. Frank Pallone and Rush Holt are also expected to enter the Democratic primary.  So far, the sole Republican running is former Bogota mayor Steve Lonegan, who runs the New Jersey office of Americans for Prosperity.

While Booker, 44, is already considered the early frontrunner, Pallone, 61, is leading on the campaign money side. He has $3.7 million compared to Booker’s $1.9 million, as of the end of March, reports The Huffington Post. Pallone has been in Congress since 1993. Holt, 64, is a former research physicist, has $800,000 raised.

Booker has some major backing already. He was joined at the news conference by former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley, a former NBA player who held the Senate seat Booker is seeking for 18 years, reports HuffPo. And, Booker has been a popular mayor with the media and public. He has 1.4 million followers on Twitter – or five for every resident of Newark.

Booker’s announcement came early due to the passing of Lautenberg.  Booker had started fundraising for a 2014 Senate campaign after announcing he would not run against Christie for governor. Instead, he said he wanted to finish his term in Newark, which ends in June 2014. Although Booker has now said he would be sad to leave Newark sooner than planned, he is content that $1 billion in development projects are in the works. He also spoke of his to-do list before leaving office and it includes continuing to increase transparency and accountability in the city police department and to leave a funding mechanism for hiring police every year.

“We need someone in the United States Senate who’s actually had to work on difficult problems, who’s actually had to find people jobs, who’s actually had people standing in front of their homes and had to work on everything from getting people into food stamp programs to helping young people better afford college,” Booker said during his press conference.

Gov. Chris Christie set the primary for Aug. 13 and a special election for the balance of Lautenberg’s term for Oct. 16. The winner of the October special election will retain the seat until November 2014, when voters will elect a senator for the regular six-year term.

Booker, Pallone and Holt have long ties. Booker has fund-raised for Holt previously and all three are known to support liberal causes.

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