Senate Race Is Officially On

By David Cruz
NJ Today

While Republicans have essentially left Steve Lonegan a clear path to the GOP nomination, Democrats are at the beginning of what could prove to be a bruising inter-party primary.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker, accompanied at his announcement by former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley, is considered by many to be the front-runner, if only because his name is the best-known. He has a handy lead in the first major poll of the young election season but, in a short-sprint election like this one, he’s no shoo-in.

“This is a very quick election. It’s gonna be a very exciting 66 days,” said Booker. “I look forward to going across the state every single day and doing my best to show them that I can be the kind of United States senator that not only honors the traditions of those who came before but helps to forge a new path forward.”

Booker also has the endorsement of powerful Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo in the north and South Jersey power broker George Norcross, who gave a pragmatic rationale for backing the Newark mayor today.

“He’s gonna win,” said Norcross. ‘Ideologically, Cory and I are much closer than any of the others.”

Congressman Frank Pallone’s official announcement was low-key. He arrived at the Division of Elections carrying his own petitions. He said he was making the point that his campaign would be a grass roots effort. We tried to get him to highlight some of the differences between himself and the supposed frontrunner.

Said Pallone, “My focus is on my own record. Let the public compare the records and make the decision. Today is the day when I’m filing these petitions. and I wanna be positive about my record and what I’m trying to achieve.”

The somewhat surprising Republican candidate, Steve Lonegan, filed his petitions just minutes before Pallone and previewed his early strategy.

Asked if he saw any difference among the Democratic candidates, Lonegan said, “This primary, the Democrats are gonna have to show, to mobilize their base, who’s the most far left of the three or four of them.”

Congressman Rush Holt made his announcement last week. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver filed her petitions just before the deadline today. She is the most intriguing of the candidates to many observers. The conventional wisdom is that she hurts Booker’s effort most by giving black voters another option and by giving a home to those in Newark who have never been Booker fans. There will be a primary this summer. The candidates have filed. The question is, will voters even notice.