Five-Term Sen. Frank Lautenberg Announces Retirement

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New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg says he will not seek re-election in 2014.

The 89-year-old Democrat said in a statement he'll make the formal announcement Friday in his hometown of Paterson, N.J.

“This is not the end of anything, but rather the beginning of a two-year mission to pass new gun safety laws, protect children from toxic chemicals, and create more opportunities for working families in New Jersey,” Lautenberg’s statement read.

Herb Jackson, Washington correspondent for The Record, says health may have been a factor.

""He's a pretty proud man and he had been very sick in late December, early January," he told WNYC's Soterios Johnson. "He came back but he's been walking with a cane, he looks much weaker."

Lautenberg’s legislative successes included banning smoking on airplanes, increasing the legal drinking age and lowering the legal threshold for drunk driving.

Seton Hall political science Associate Professor Matthew Hale said his push for gun control legislation will continue that legacy.

“He is well positioned to be a leader in the coming gun control debate. And I think it's an issue that seems to have resonated quite strongly with him,” Hale said.

Lautenberg is the last remaining World War Two veteran in the Senate. He was first elected in 1982. He did leave the Senate in 2001, but was elected again in 2003.

He was facing a likely challenge from Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Montclair State University Political Science Professor Brigid Callahan Harrison said Booker shouldn't assume the seat is his for the taking now that Lautenberg's out.

She says Mayor Booker alienated a lot of Democrats when he decided not to challenge Governor Christie.

“That didn't sit well with many Democrats who thought that he might have the best chance of knocking off the governor,” Harrison said. “And so therefore, I think there was kind of a little bit of an attitude of saying, 'Well, Cory, if you want this, you're going to have to fight for it.'”

Harrison says other Democrats, besides Booker, may want to run for the seat, including Congressmen Rob Andrews or Frank Pallone.

Hale agrees that Pallone, in particular, could be a huge factor in the race.

“A lot of people outside of New Jersey kind of look at Booker as the anointed one, but I wouldn’t count out Frank Pallone. He’s got money, name recognition. He’s a good fit for the state, especially a good fit for Democratic primary voters,” Hale said.

With the Associated Press.