Newark mayor Cory Booker, thought by many to be the Democrats best hope of unseating Republican Governor Chris Christie next year, has officially announced he will not seek the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

Cory Booker annouces intention to run for US Senate (YouTube)

In an emailed statement yesterday, Booker wrote, "I will complete my full second term as mayor. As for my political future, I will explore the possibility of running for The United States Senate in 2014."

Montclair State University political science professor Dr. Brigid Harrison thinks if Christie was damaged goods Booker might have relished the chance to take him on, but the Governor's approval ratings are soaring as a result of his leadership before, during and after super-storm Sandy.

Harrison says, "If I'm Governor Christie right now I'm feeling pretty darn good about myself and my Administration and also my re-election prospects."

Some of the Democrats' names being bandied about as possibilities to challenge Christie are former Governor and current State Senator Dick Codey, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald. State Senator Barbara Buono is still the only Democrat to officially announce a run against Christie.

"That top dog (Booker), the person who really was looked at as being the frontrunner is out of the race now," says Harrison. "What that means is that the possibilities are limitless for those who are tossing their hat into the ring……… That changes the whole ballgame. What this means is we now have a wide open field for the nomination. I think that we'll see, undoubtedly a contested primary."

"With the Mayor's announcement -- and having already earned the endorsement of the Middlesex County and Somerset County Democratic Parties, I am asking Democrats across New Jersey to join our campaign for the Democratic nomination for Governor," says Buono. "New leadership is crucial for New Jersey. We need a united Democratic Party that makes the case for meaningful change, and gives a real voice to working and middle-class people across our state."

Sweeney would not discuss his political future and his spokesman would only say the Senate President won't make a decision until next year. Codey says he'll make his decision soon.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, Chairman of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee says, "I am disappointed that Mayor Booker has chosen not to seek the nomination for New Jersey Governor. He is an attractive candidate. However, New Jersey Democrats have a number of talented, experienced individuals on our 'bench' who would make both excellent candidates and excellent governors. The working people of New Jersey have been hurting for these past three years under Governor Christie, and I am confident that we will nominate a candidate in June who will help us win back the Governor's office next November."

Harrison thinks that as is typically the case in New Jersey, the political machine will shape the race. She says, "You'll see lots of discussions between the north Jersey bosses and the south Jersey bosses and that may wind up eliminating some of these potential contenders…..It really is a very tough, uphill battle for a candidate that doesn't have the backing of the party machines to come in and win a primary."