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Newark Mayor Cory Booker the favorite in Senate race

GLENN TOWNES | 6/20/2013, 4:24 p.m. | Updated on 6/25/2013, 4:24 p.m.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker

Name recognition, intellect and a political savvy unmatched by his opponents have made Newark Mayor Cory Booker the favorite to win the Senate seat vacated by the late Frank Lautenberg, according to various state polls and man-on-the-street interviews.

On Wednesday, the 44-year-old mayor traveled to the south Jersey town of Deptford to receive an official endorsement for the U.S. Senate by Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assemblyman Lou Greenwald. Booker already enjoys the support of New Jersey power broker and deep-pocketed Democratic strategist George Norcross.

Among the handful of candidates hoping to derail Booker’s almost inevitable victory at the August primary and subsequent October election, the biggest spoiler could be outspoken and controversial Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver. She and Booker are the only two noteworthy African-Americans in the race; however, the two enjoy at best a prosaic relationship, with Oliver occasionally throwing barbs and criticism at Booker. The notion is that Oliver could garner female and minority votes that would otherwise go to Booker.

In a recent statement to the press Oliver said, “I don’t bring any sense of entitlement to the race.” She added that there is no “rift” between she and Booker, and that they have had minimal contact. Add to the mix that Oliver has had a bitter and publicly problematic relationship with the ever popular Gov. Chris Christie. Her interactions with Christie are quite contrary to the prodigious relationship Booker enjoys with the plump politico and makes the prospect of Oliver upsetting Booker’s bid even more remote and perhaps laughable, according to many. The other hopefuls in the race include U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone and Rush Holt.

Finally, one issue that could potentially cause at least a bump in the road for Booker is a lack of support from some of the Garden State’s most powerful labor unions. For example, as of press time, two of the most influential unions, the New Jersey Education Association and the Communications Workers of America, have not publicly endorsed a candidate.