By David Cruz
There are about two months to go before election day for U.S. Senate and while Democrat Cory Booker says he’ll travel the high road until then, he may not have much of a choice if today’s speech at a warehouse in Newark is any indication. Booker started out by talking about inclusiveness and his ability to reach out to others, including, coincidentally, the man who endorsed his opponent earlier this week, who also happens to be the Republican governor.
“He and I have stood together. Chris Christie has accepted Medicaid expansion, fought for Hurricane Sandy relief. He stood by me, he stood with me to increase public school teachers’ salaries, expand union apprenticeship programs for urban youth and used tax incentives to create jobs,” Booker said.
But, while Booker tried to respectfully draw the contrasts between himself and Steve Lonegan, lurking on the sidelines, phone camera going, was Rick Shaftan, the campaign manager for Lonegan. Good, clean fight? Not so much.
“It says something that their campaign is so inept that they let me tape their entire news conference before they kicked me out,” Shaftan said.
That is what happened. The Booker camp says Shaftan didn’t have an invite to what was a private, invitation-only event. They say they recognized Shaftan but allowed him to stay through the speech in order to “learn about how Mayor Cory Booker will work to bring people together in Washington.” As Shaftan was being escorted out, in nearby Harrison, Lonegan waited for the results of his recon mission, delaying the start of his own press conference.
“I don’t want to make you guys wait,” Lonegan said. “Where’s the rest of my team?”
Meanwhile Booker continued to draw philosophical contrasts between the two.
“He is a self-described — in his own words — right wing radical. Frankly, as a proud progressive, as a proud Democrat, I am fiercely pragmatic,” Booker said.
Lonegan, who says his campaign is picking up momentum, was ready for Booker, after he got a chance to listen to Booker’s remarks.
“Him and his campaign recognize that there’s no 16-point lead in this race. This race is much closer than anybody thinks,” Lonegan said.
If he noticed Shaftan, Booker didn’t let on, but he also didn’t take any questions, so we couldn’t tell if he was annoyed or not. Lonegan says expect more of the same as the campaign heats up.
When asked why he sent one of his staffers to Booker’s press conference and what he was planning to do with the video, Lonegan said, “We’ll try to do the same thing with the video that the American bridge people that go to my press conferences want to do with their video. We’ll fight fire with fire.”
Booker’s double-digit lead is healthy but not insurmountable, and in a race with a Republican firebrand who says he’s making his last run, Booker may need to start more closely looking out for uninvited guests brandishing video cameras.