Rep. Rush Holt announced Thursday morning that he would run in this year's special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat occupied by the late Frank Lautenberg.
Holt, a Democrat who has represented New Jersey's 12th district since 1999, is the first in the race to officially announce his candidacy.
"Today, I ask for your support as I seek to serve as your Senator in that seat," Holt wrote in a letter to supporters, which his campaign sent to reporters and posted online. "The reason is simple: I believe I am the best candidate to continue the passionate advocacy for progressive values that Sen. Lautenberg exemplified."
Lautenberg passed away at age 89 early Monday morning, prompting Christie to schedule a special election for Oct. 16, with a primary on Aug. 13, accelerating an already heated race by more than a year.
Holt announced his campaign less than 24 hours after Lautenberg's funeral in New York City Wednesday.
Two other Democratic candidates, Newark mayor Cory Booker and Rep. Frank Pallone, are collecting signatures to qualify for the ballot and are expected to make their candidacies official soon, according to sources in both camps.
Booker campaign spokesman Kevin Griffis confirmed Wednesday night that the mayor's campaign had volunteers collecting signatures to meet the nominating petition deadline on Monday, June 10 — a move "consistent with what we've been doing for the last several months: taking the steps necessary to run," Griffis told BuzzFeed. "We will make the official announcement at the appropriate time."
In his announcement letter, Holt highlighted his background as a professor and scientist, and his work in Congress to increase student aid and funding for research and development.
"As you know," Holt added, "I have never shied away from a tough political fight, and I have never wavered in my commitment to advancing progressive priorities."