Senate Race Takes Shape

STATE — General Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver will compete with two congressmen — Reps. Frank Pallone and Rush Holt — for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in the August 13th special primary election.

On the Republican side, former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan submitted more than 7,000 petition signatures while Piscataway medical doctor Alieta Eck turned in petitions bearing 2,326 signatures.

Taxpayers will spend $24 million on two special elections to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated with the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg because Republican Gov. Chris Christie refused to hold votting for the post on the same day his name appears on the ballot.

According to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, just 12 percent of New Jersey voters agreed with Christie’s decision to hold separate elections when informed of the $24 million cost while more than three-quarters believe Gov. Chris Christie made a bad call.

Oliver served on the East Orange Board of Education from 1994-2000 and she was an Essex County freeholder from 1996-1999. Since 2004, she has represented the 34th Legislative District in the Assembly.

Pallone, Jr. has represented New Jersey in Congress since 1988. In 1983, he defeated incumbent Republican State Senator Brian T. Kennedy to secure a seat in the state Senate.

Somerset County Democratic Chairwoman Peg Schaffer filed an emergency lawsuit with the state Superior Court Appellate Division to stop the special election called by Christie, arguing the giant waste of money is also an attempt to deprive voters of their franchise.

Holt is a former professor at the Plasma Physics Laboratory in Princeton University, and from 1987 to 1989, he headed the Nuclear and Scientific Division of the Office of Strategic Forces at the U.S. Department of State.

Lonegan was mayor of Bogota, from 1995–2007, a candidate for the Republican nomination for Governor of New Jersey in 2005 and 2009; and the director of the New Jersey chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the arch-conservative group funded by the Koch brothers.

Eck is a former president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), a conservative non-profit founded in 1943 to “fight socialized medicine” after the Wagner-Murray-Dingell Bill proposed to add health insurance to the Social Security system. As if to underscore the fact that political and scientific viewpoints of AAPS are considered extreme or dubious by other medical groups, Eck has been endorsed by the Bayshore Tea Party organization.

Christie appointed his state Attorney General, Jeff Chiesa, as New Jersey’s U.S. Senator and he will serve until a successor is chosen by the voters. The person elected will presumably run for a full, six year term in 2014.

Also in the race is Newark Mayor Cory Booker — who attempted to distance himself from his neo-liberal economic policies and Republican-friendly politics by criticizing Gov. Chris Christie over the weekend. Now that he has to appeal to Democrats, Booker is saying that he disagrees with his YouTube co-star on such issues as global warming, same-sex marriage, cuts to public health clinics and the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income families, among other things.

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