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NJ Democrat Cory Booker weighing runs for governor or U.S. Senate

Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Cory A. Booker reacts during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina S
Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Cory A. Booker reacts during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina S

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Newark Mayor Cory Booker is giving serious thought to challenging Chris Christie when the New Jersey governor runs for re-election next year and will announce his plans within two weeks, Booker said on Sunday.

"I am absolutely considering running for governor, as well as giving other options some consideration," said Booker, one of the state's leading Democrats and an early favorite to challenge Christie next November.

Booker, appearing on CBS's "Face the Nation" program, said he is also weighing a run for the U.S. Senate.

"Life, ultimately, is not about a position. It's about a purpose," Booker told the morning talk show. "So I'm really thinking about both offices right now, and which one can I better serve the issues that I'm passionate about and the things I feel driven to contribute to."

Christie, who took office three years ago, has been enjoying sky-high approval ratings for his handling of Superstorm Sandy, which plowed into the Jersey Shore in late October, laying waste to thousands of homes and tearing up miles of beach-front boardwalks.

A Quinnipiac University poll released last month found that two-thirds of New Jersey voters say Christie deserves to be re-elected, and a match-up between Christie and Booker had the Republican governor winning by 53 percent to 35 percent.

Democrats say they expect Christie's popularity to subside, and point to the governor's opposition to a so-called millionaire's tax and his veto of a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage as potential vulnerabilities.

Like Christie, Booker is a charismatic politician who has cultivated a place on the national political stage in part thanks to an aggressive use of social media. The two men have made much of their close working relationship.

Democrats control both houses of the state legislature, and U.S. Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez are both Democrats.

A survey by Public Policy Polling released last month found that most New Jersey Democrats would like to see Lautenberg, who is 88, retire at the end of his term rather than run for re-election in 2014.

The same survey found Booker leading the pack of potential Democratic candidates for the Senate seat, with six in 10 voters saying they want to see him run.

(Reporting By Edith Honan; editing by Philip Barbara)

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