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Election Day approaching for NJ special Senate race

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Aug 08 2013 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 09 2013 05:42:09 PM CDT

It's still summer, but it's almost Election Day in New Jersey.

It's still summer, but it's almost Election Day in New Jersey. Four Democrats are running in next Tuesday's U.S. Senate primary, but polls predict a landslide for Newark mayor Cory Booker.

In a debate Thursday night, Booker's opponents accused the celebrity mayor of being all flash and little substance.

"Listen to see which candidate offers this kind of progressive vision, and which candidate offers vague rhetoric," said U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, D - Warren/Hunterdon.

With his national stature, including an endorsement from Oprah Winfrey and more than a million Twitter followers, Booker has little to worry about in Tuesday's Democratic primary. A recent Quinnipiac University poll gives the mayor a staggering 40 point lead over his nearest opponent.

He and three other Democrats want to replace longtime Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died in June. During Thursday's debate, Booker played up his national status as an urban savior.

"I made a decision to move, not just to Newark, but to one of our toughest neighborhoods because I believe that you shouldn't run from tough problems, you should run to them," he said.

But Booker has baggage. His city remains mired in crime. Under the mayor's watch, Newark cut 160 cops and closed three fire stations -- all while taxes went up more than 20 percent. Opponents have also tied the mayor to his Wall Street donors.

Others question how effective Booker really is, in spite of his fame.

"Mayor Booker keeps talking about his close relationship with Gov. Christie and how he can reach across the aisle," said opponent U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone. "Well, why doesn't he use that relationship to try to get the governor to support marriage equality?"

But the mayor also has some successes.

"We've been able to drive down crime, expand opportunity -- in fact, our biggest economic boom since the 1960s," said Booker.

Either way, Quinnipiac's pollster said, "Unless the sky falls, Cory Booker can start looking for a Washington apartment." In October's general election, the mayor is already 25 points ahead of his presumed Republican opponent.

Just to give you an idea how big an advantage Cory Booker has, he raised more than two million dollars just last month -- most of it from out-of-state.