Senator Frank Lautenberg (2nd R)) and Mayor of Newark Cory A. Booker pose for photos prior to the news conference between Prudential Financial and Devils Arena Entertainment naming the Prudential Center as the new home of the New Jersey Devils on January 8, 2007 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Andy Marlin/Getty Images for the NHL)

This week Newark mayor Cory Booker finally announced his plans for his next campaign, saying he will explore a run for the U.S. Senate in 2014.

The seat currently occupied by longtime Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) could open up if the 88-year-old senator retires.

After endless speculation over whether Booker would run for the Senate or perhaps take a run at Republican Governor Chris Christie next year, Booker told the choice had more to do with his current job than his future one.

Booker says if he ran for New Jersey governor, “[i]t would be an all consuming and full time campaign.  It would take me away from what could be the most productive year of my mayoralty.”

Booker, who is now in his second term as mayor, is focused on finishing up his tenure and putting Newark on more sure fiscal footing.

“We have a billion dollars in new development in the pipeline,”  Booker said. “I wanted to take us over the finish line and get Newark fiscally stable for the first time in 10-15 years.  It would be an incredible achievement…. With the fiscal strength we’re showing we can expect to hire more police officers in the city” in ongoing and consistent efforts to curb the level of violence in Newark.

Booker says that he has already reached out to Senator Frank Lautenberg, who would need to retire to make way for a Senator Booker, “I’ve reached out to him and will have an opportunity to sit with him.  It’s my intention to run but he deserves deference and we want to make sure we give him the latitude.  That’s how my momma raised me.  [She raised me] to sit down with your elders and ask for [their] blessing.”

Booker also says he learned a lot of valuable lessons after his recent #SNAPchallenge where he lived on food stamps for a week.

Booker says the effort was “far more successful than we thought it would be. It was talked about in the national conversation and we were able to highlight a lot of issues like food insecurity and food deserts…We discovered that in many cities around the first of the month prices [on groceries] are jacked up.  During that time the farm bill was being debated in Congress and the House version cutting SNAP dramatically.  It ended up being a very good time to focus people’s energies.  There are a lot of folks with no access to healthy and nutritious food.”

The mayor also said he no longer takes as many things for granted after his #SNAPchallenge week.

“It was a modest brush with what many people experience on a daily and monthly basis.  It expanded my consciousness.  We should be a lot less judgmental and a lot more compassionate of our neighbors and friends,” he said.

The topic of how to curb gun violence has been in the news lately because of the shooting massacre in Newtown, and as an urban mayor Booker says that while much of the focus is on legislation targeting legal guns, “illegal guns are overwhelming majority of weapons used in crimes.”

“We don’t have to go to extreme lengths on gun control.  Most NRA members agree on and most Americans agree on a lot of these solutions.  For example, 40 percent of guns bought and sold [in this country] are in secondary markets.  [That includes sales] on the internet, by private citizens, and at gun shows.  There are no background checks in these cases.  When states crack down on secondary markets they curb violence. Seventy-four percent of NRA members agree this should be done. Eighty-two percent of gun owners say this should be done.  We would choke off a lot of the supply.  The gun show loophole is a secondary market problem.”

After the tragic school shooting in Newtown, there is a now a national dialogue about gun control.

“This sense of urgency is something I live with every day,” Booker says. “It’s a horrendous untold tragedy that 30 people are murdered every day with guns.  Countless others are injured.  I wake up every single day trying to lower the level of violence in my city.”

Once Booker finishes out his second term as mayor of Newark, he hopes to make an impact on Capitol Hill as Senator Cory Booker.

Follow Zerlina Maxwell at @ZerlinaMaxwell