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Rep. Frank Pallone to Challenge Cory Booker for NJ Sen. Lautenberg’s Seat?

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s decision Thursday not to seek another term paves the way for Newark Mayor Cory Booker to run for Senate without a primary fight against the 89-year-old. But that doesn’t mean Booker will walk to the nomination.

In an interview with ABC News, Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., stressed that “today is Senator Lautenberg’s day,” but did acknowledge that he is going to explore a bid for U.S. Senate.

“I’ll tell you this, it obviously changes the political landscape,” Pallone said. “I’ve always been interested in the Senate and it’s something I’m going to continue to explore.”

Pallone, 61, is from New Jersey’s 6th district and has been in office since 1989. He wouldn’t answer any other questions about a possible bid, stressing he didn’t want to trample on Lautenberg’s decision, calling him a “good friend.”

“I work with him closely and he made a major impact on some of the more important issues that have faced New Jersey and the country,” Pallone said, highlighting transportation, infrastructure, and environmental issues like superfund programs and shore protection.

“To me he always epitomized the American dream,” Pallone said of Lautenberg. “He was successful financially, and then he gave back by serving as senator. He always wants to look out for the little guy and he continues to work for the American dream.”

This potential fight between Booker and Pallone is something Lautenberg himself previewed in January in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, although he didn’t mention Pallone by name.

“[Booker will] have to stand on his record and I’m sure he won’t be a lone soldier out there drooling at the mouth and wanting this cushy politician's somewhat antagonistic relationship before Booker announced his intentions of running  – sort of, that is, because he then said he was still deciding — in December," Lautenberg said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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