Lautenberg hosts a state reception, sort of

Posted: September 06, 2012

CHARLOTTE - The Tuesday reception "hosted by Frank Lautenberg" was missing one thing: Frank Lautenberg.

New Jersey's senior U.S. senator lent his name to a party hosted by the Democrats' state committee, but aides for the committee and Lautenberg said his absence was expected, playing down a report that caused a brief stir in political circles.

The story in the Newark Star-Ledger and the attention paid to it were reminders that Lautenberg, 88, holds one of the most coveted offices in New Jersey, and his every move is watched for potential meaning.

Lautenberg "very generously offered to contribute" to the reception, said state committee spokeswoman Alicia D'Alessandro. "There was never any expectation that he would come down and personally host it."

Still, a schedule handed out by Democrats said the reception from 3 to 5 p.m. would be "hosted by Frank Lautenberg." D'Alessandro said the wording was merely to thank Lautenberg for his campaign fund's help with the event.

"Sen. Lautenberg was thrilled to help the State Democratic Party throw a great reception and looks forward to greeting everyone in Charlotte," Lautenberg spokesman Caley Gray wrote in an e-mail. He said the senator had personal plans and wasn't due to arrive at the convention until Wednesday, but will speak to the delegation Thursday.

Lautenberg is next up for reelection in 2014, when he will be 90. He remains a feisty liberal who has taken aim at Gov. Christie, served as a surrogate for President Obama, and given no signal of any plan to step down. A long list of Democrats, however, is not-so-quietly considering runs for his seat.

- Jonathan Tamari

and Matt Katz

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