Something that has become increasingly obvious: U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg is planning to run for a sixth term in 2014, when he will be 90 years old. As he continues his battle against stomach cancer, Lautenberg appears vigorous and driven; he even looks younger with the shorter hair that comes with his chemotherapy. Democrats who know him well say that Lautenberg has no intention of voluntarily retiring – a point that likely frustrates a generation of younger, ambitious would-be Senators. He didn’t exactly enjoy retirement the first time around — close friends say he regretted his decision not to run in 2000 almost instantly — and as long as he’s healthy and popular, he probably runs. Democrats have won ten consecutive U.S. Senate races in New Jersey; the last GOP winner was Clifford Case in 1972. New Jersey has never had a nonagenarian candidate, so there’s no precedent as to the reaction of voters – except that the only octogenarian statewide candidate, Lautenberg in 2008, won easily.
A story that has appeared on PolitickerNJ.com since 2002: Political junkies need only remember the story of Theodore Green, a Democratic politician from Rhode Island. Green was 69-years-old when he was elected to the Senate in 1936. Because of his age, it was assumed that he would have a short career in the Senate. But Green went on to serve four terms, retiring in 1960 when he was 93. An entire generation of Rhode Island politicians miscalculated by planning their political careers on the assumption that Green would soon retire.