Rep. Pallone throws hat into Democratic primary for Lautenberg's Senate seat

The race to fill the U.S. Senate seat of the late Frank Lautenberg is getting crowded.

On Monday, Rep. Frank Pallone said he is throwing his name into the ring and says he feels confident he can beat out Newark Mayor Cory Booker in the Democratic primary. And says he'll do so by running on his progressive congressional record.

"At the end of the day, we're all going to run on our records," Pallone, who has been in Congress since 1989, told The Associated Press in an interview Sunday. "I believe my record of 25 years in Congress and the legislation that I've sponsored and the initiatives I've worked on show I'm the best person to get the job done."

Meanwhile, South Jersey political leader George Norcross III put his considerable influence behind Booker Sunday night.

"I think he's a winner," Norcross said. "He represents a new type of Democrat -- fiscally conservative, socially progressive." Norcross and Booker both support the end of lifetime teacher tenure, expansion of charter schools and other urban school reforms.

Pallone, 61, who had banked $3.7 million for a future campaign as of the end of March, said his progressive record on issues such as the Affordable Care Act, mass transportation funding and Superfund cleanups more closely mirrors Lautenberg's positions than his opponents. He and Lautenberg frequently worked together on legislation, with Lautenberg sponsoring a bill in the Senate and Pallone sponsoring it in the House.

He is the third well-funded Democrat seeking to carry on Lautenberg's liberal legacy in a state that has not elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate in more than 40 years.

Meanwhile Booker, 44, a rising star in the Democratic Party with Hollywood friends like Oprah Winfrey and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, formally declared his candidacy on Saturday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.