Lautenberg allies project solidarity in face of challengers

MORRISTOWN – Democratic Party leaders will stage a rally in Trenton on Monday in support of U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg as two potential primary challengers – Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello and former party Chairman Tom Byrne of Princeton – continued to lay the groundwork to run against the veteran lawmaker.

"We’re going to have the Democratic congressional delegation, Gov. Corzine, Sen. Menendez – all in support of Sen. Lautenberg," said Democratic State Chairman Joseph Cryan.

The event is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. at the Marriott.

When Lautenberg first ran for U.S. Senate he was one in a Democratic Primary field of 11 that included Cresitello. Twenty-six years later, Cresitello still believes he’s the man who can ensure that this is Lautenberg’s last election, and this time the field is substantially smaller.

"If I can get Lautenberg to debate me, I can win," said the mayor in his Morristown office today, hours after he dispatched about a dozen volunteers from Town Hall to collect signatures for him to get on the ballot in time for the April 7 filing deadline.

The one obstacle to Cresitello’s efforts could prove to be Bryne, son of former Gov. Brendan Byrne, who is probing his own primary run against Lautenberg.

"If Byrne gets in, obviously that makes it harder for one of us to beat Lautenberg," Cresitello said. "I have not talked to him, but I imagine I will if we get closer to the filing deadline and he appears to be moving forward with a run."

Today Byrne said he had not come to a determination about whether or not he would run.

"I’m not prepared to make a decision," he told "It will come down to conversations I have over the next couple of days." Lautenberg allies project solidarity in face of challengers