State Senate President Stephen Sweeney says he will soon open a federal exploratory committee, the first public step in signaling a run for federal office.

The Democrat declined to say Monday whether he would challenge incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg in 2014, but says he's keeping "all options open."

Sweeney says he hasn't spoken to Lautenberg, who will be 88 this month, about the possibility. New Jersey's other U.S. Senator, Democrat Robert Menendez, faces re-election this year.

In June, Newark Mayor Cory Booker registered a federal political action committee, fueling speculation that he may have his eye on higher office. The federal PAC allows Booker to raise money for other candidates, but not to use funds to run for office, which is different than the exploratory committee.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)