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The 89-Year-Old Kid From Paterson Comes Home To Say Good-bye

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PATERSON, NJ – Where else could Frank Lautenberg go to announce his retirement from the United States Senate? Not Washington, DC, where he has served as one of New Jersey’s Senators for 29 years. Not Newark, where he maintains his northern New Jersey Senate office. Not Secaucus, where his name adorns the massive NJ Transit rail station.

For the son of a silk mill worker who was the son of a silk mill worker, the press conference about his retirement had to be held in Paterson, the city where he was born, raised and shaped.

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“They can take the kid out of Paterson, but they can’t take Paterson out of the kid,’’ said the 89-year-old Senator, standing in front of a host of cameras in a building that once rumbled as part of Paterson’s industrial engine.

In reality, Lautenberg’s press conference on Friday was anticlimactic after word had spread the day before that he would not be seeking re-election. Still, the event at the Spruce Street offices of the New Jersey Community Development Corporation was an opportunity for New Jersey’s senior political office-holder to tip his hat to his constituents.

Lautenberg promised he would not fade away during the final two years of his term.

“Today I am announcing the beginning of a two-year mission to pass new gun safety laws, protect children from toxic chemicals, and to ensure that working families are not left behind,’’ the Senator said. “While I will not stand for re-election in 2014, I will continue working for the next two years to build a better New Jersey and a better America for our children and grandchildren.”

“When I first ran for the Senate, my pledge was to always put the people of New Jersey first,’’ he added. “Putting New Jersey first is the principle that has guided my every action—from building up our transportation network to making our environment healthier and our communities safer and more secure.  I will continue to be guided by this principle and will keep working with President Obama and my colleagues in Congress for Garden State families.” 

During his comments, Lautenberg recalled his father, who died of cancer at the age of 43, a death the Senator attributed to the harsh conditions of mill work. He talked about how his father showed him the dust from the job, according to a story on politickernj.com.

In his comments, Lautenberg avoided talk of who his successor might be, said a story on northjersey.com.

Among the hopefuls are Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and Rep. Frank Pallone of Monmouth County, according to a story on nj.com.

In a press release, Lautenberg outlined the following agenda for his final two years in office:

  • Passing gun safety legislation to ban high-capacity magazines, close the gun show loophole and prevent known and suspected terrorists from buying guns;
  • Reforming America’s broken chemical laws and protecting children by passing the Safe Chemicals Act;
  • Modernizing infrastructure to create jobs, boost the economy, reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality;
  • Helping the state of New Jersey, communities, families and businesses utilize federal resources to rebuild after Superstorm Sandy; and
  • Chairing the Financial Services Appropriations Subcommittee to ensure that Main Street - not just Wall Street-prospers.

Here’s what some prominent political leaders had to say about his retirement:

President Barak Obama: “Frank is a steadfast champion of the people of New Jersey. Throughout his time in the Senate, Frank has fought tirelessly for workers, veterans, members of our military and their families, and immigrants, and he continues to make extraordinary contributions to our nation’s safety, and the health and welfare of our citizens. His service in World War II is a testament to his character and deep commitment to public service. I look forward to working with Frank on critical issues before us these next two years, and Michelle and I wish him and Bonnie all the best.”

Gov. Chris Christie:  “Frank Lautenberg and I have had our differences through the years, but I’ve always respected him for his tenacity, devotion to the people of New Jersey and his love for and commitment to public service. I will always be grateful for his doggedness in fighting with me and the delegation to ensure congressional passage of an aid package after Hurricane Sandy that is delivering necessary assistance to our residents. I wish him the best in his retirement.”

Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr.: "My good friend and fellow Patersonian Frank Lautenberg has served our country with great honor and distinction.  As a soldier and a U.S. Senator, Frank has fought tirelessly on behalf of hard working Americans across our entire nation.  Time after time, when others stayed quiet or turned away from tough issues, Frank was always on the forefront working for all of us.

“Right here at home when I needed a partner to help make the Great Falls National Historical Park a reality I called upon Frank and together we never looked back till we got the job done.  Our nation, our state, and our shared hometown, will all miss his tenacity in the United States Senate.  While it saddens me to learn of his retirement, I know Frank Lautenberg will never be on the sidelines."

Sen.  Robert Menendez: “I congratulate Senator Frank Lautenberg on the commencement of his two-year mission to robustly complete his service to the people of New Jersey in the United States Senate. As we are both sons of immigrant parents, I know that Frank Lautenberg has always known what it means to pursue the American dream and to keep that dream alive for his fellow Americans. New Jerseyans have always known Frank for his straight talk and hard work.’’

“His legislative accomplishments are many and some – such as prohibiting domestic violence offenders from possessing guns, and stopping federal aid to terrorist nations – have been groundbreaking. I look forward to working with him during the next two years to add to those accomplishments."

State Senate President and gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono: "Senator Frank Lautenberg has committed his life to serving the state of New Jersey. As a veteran of World War II, a successful businessman and a five-term Senator, Senator Lautenberg has always exemplified what it means to be a public servant. New Jerseyans have been lucky to have such a distinguished elected official represent our state's interests in Washington and he will be sorely missed. “

"During the next two years, I look forward to working with him to pass laws that will reduce gun violence and create jobs for New Jersey's middle and working class."

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