WASHINGTON -- The family of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg endorsed U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone as the best candidate to fill his seat Monday -- and took a thinly-veiled shot at the "celebrity" of the race's front-runner, Cory Booker.
"Frank Lautenberg followed three fundamental principles as New Jersey’s U.S. Senator: stay true to his progressive values, put New Jersey first, and be a workhorse, not a showhorse," the family said in a statement released by the Pallone campaign. "Most of the candidates in the Democratic field have proven themselves as hardworking, progressive leaders who care deeply about New Jersey. But only one of them stands out as ready to continue Frank Lautenberg’s progressive leadership in the U.S. Senate. That candidate is Congressman Frank Pallone."
They added: "We are saying: Stick with Frank."
"Frank Pallone, like our Frank, will put in the hours and hard work necessary to fight for New Jersey in the Senate," the statement said.
It pointedly continued: "Frank Pallone knows that gimmicks and celebrity status won’t get you very far in the real battles that Democrats face in the future ... While it may not always attract glamorous headlines, Frank knows that to be effective you must put New Jersey and your principles first, not your own glory."
The endorsement is the most positive development yet for Pallone yet as he runs in a four-way Democratic primary in the race to replace Lautenberg, who held a New Jersey Senate seat for much of the past 30 years. The backing of Lautenberg's family could help Pallone distinguish himself from fellow U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, who is also running as liberal champion and who has also argued that he would be the best choice to carry on Lautenberg's legacy.
Pallone was close with Lautenberg -- the Congressman (before he entered office himself) had volunteered on Lautenberg's first ever campaign, in 1982.
Booker has won support from most of the Democratic establishment, but angered Lautenberg when he openly made moves toward running for Senate before the incumbent had announced his decision about whether to retire or seek re-election.
In January Lautenberg suggested "spanking" Booker for disrespect.
Lautenberg eventually announced he would not run again in 2014. He died in office in June, setting the stage for this summer's special election.