Four-Way Democratic Senate Primary Takes Shape in NJ

Posted on: June 11th, 2013 by ABC News No Comments

Cindy Ord/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Cory Booker’s got company.

The Newark mayor may be the early favorite in the fast-paced race to fill the U.S. Senate seat once held by the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, but he will have to fend off challenges from several other Democrats — and, eventually, a Republican general election opponent — before he can book a ticket to Washington.

Three other Democrats filed paperwork on Monday to run in the Aug. 13 primary:

  • Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J.: Pallone, 61, represents New Jersey’s 6th Congressional district and has been in office since 1989.  He boasts an impressive campaign war chest of $3.7 million, which likely makes him Booker’s stiffest competition.  “I’m running for the Senate because we need to focus on getting people back to work, rebuilding our economy, making sure our environment is clean and safe for future generations, and standing up for equality for all Americans,” Pallone said in a statement on Monday.
  • Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J.: Holt, 63, represents the state’s 12th Congressional district and has held office since 1999.  “I believe I am the best candidate to continue the passionate advocacy for progressive values that Sen. Lautenberg exemplified,” he said in a statement announcing his candidacy.  Holt is a former college physics professor.
  • State Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver: Oliver, who has served in the state legislature for more than a decade, would become New Jersey’s first female senator if elected.  When asked on Monday what she brings to the Senate contest, Oliver reportedly said, “I don’t bring a sense of entitlement.”

Candidates were required to submit papers along with 1,000 signatures to the New Jersey Division of Elections by 4 p.m. on Monday.

At least two Republican candidates filed papers to run in the GOP primary.  The best-known is conservative activist Steve Lonegan, who ran unsuccessfully in the GOP gubernatorial primaries in 2005 and 2009.  Lonegan served as mayor of Bogota, N.J., from 1995-2007, and he will likely face Somerset, N.J., physician Alieta Eck in the Senate primary.

Last week, Gov. Chris Christie appointed Republican state Attorney General Jeff Chiesa to temporarily fill Lautenberg’s seat.  Chiesa, who was officially sworn in Monday afternoon, will only serve until the special election and did not file paperwork to run.

A Quinnipiac University poll out on Monday showed Booker trouncing all challengers in the Democratic primary field.  In the survey, Booker got 53 percent of the Democratic primary vote, with 10 percent support for Holt and nine percent for Pallone.  (State Assembly Speaker Oliver was not included in the poll).

If Booker prevails in the primary, he would be the heavy favorite to win the Oct. 16 general election.

The same poll found Booker topping Lonegan 54 to 27 percent in a head-to-head contest.  Either of the two Democratic congressmen would likely face a closer race against Lonegan: Pallone leads the GOP candidate 39 to 29 percent and Holt leads 36 to 31 percent.

New Jersey voters, by a 57-percent to 14-percent margin, also say they have a favorable opinion of the Newark mayor, who would have to run again in 2014 even if he wins this fall’s special election.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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