By Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron
Cory Booker has been out of state — in Washington D.C. and California — for a week.
Tonight, at the estate of Los Angeles business magnate Ron Burkle, he’s the guest of honor at a campaign fundraiser.
Among those attending — Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.
Booker’s Senate opponent Steve Lonegan has scheduled a counter-event in Newark tonight, a red carpet rally for regular people, he says, at Kings Family Restaurant in the South Ward.
“Let’s pull attention to the fact that Cory Booker’s parading around Hollywood and San Francisco with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. I’m gonna be with the working people of Newark,” Lonegan said. “Am I mocking him? Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s an outrage that this guy’s out there in California for a week while Newark is convulsing with violent crime and failed unemployment rates and kids are dropping out of school.”
At Booker campaign headquarters in Newark, spokesman Kevin Griffis defends the mayor’s peripatetic fundraising.
“I think we’ve officially reached the political silly season here when a candidate is being criticized for having to raise money. I mean, I think everybody knows that New Jersey is one of the most expensive states in which to run in the entire country. And so we’ve gotta do what we need to do to make sure that we have the resources to be able to reach New Jersey voters wherever they are,” said Griffis.
The Booker camp says voters want leaders with friends in high places.
“They like the fact that Cory has a national platform and then he’s able to go out and take Newark issues or eventually we hope as senator to be able to take New Jersey issues and make them the nation’s issues, bring them to national attention,” said.
“When I’m elected the people of New Jersey will have someone in a high place. That’s me representing them,” Lonegan said.
We caught up with Lonegan at his home in Bogota.
Six young campaign workers are living there with the candidate and his wife.
Some in New Jersey think House Speaker John Boehner’s new threat of a government shutdown cold tarnish the Republican brand and spill over onto a conservative like Lonegan.
“People are gonna be looking for candidates who are able to find common ground. Cory Booker as mayor of Newark has been able to do that on some big issues, on some very difficult issues,” Griffis said.
“With a government shutdown, there will still be military, we’ll still have essential services, seniors will still get their Social Security checks. But we’ll have a real discussion over the future of our economic policies. I’m not afraid of a government shutdown,” said Lonegan.
A new poll out today from Stockton College has Booker up by 26 points — 58 to 32.
Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts is coming in for Booker tomorrow. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is coming in for Lonegan next week, as the nation’s only high-profile October election heads toward the final turn.