With less than one week until a special summer primary to fill a vacant Senate seat, front-runner Newark Mayor Cory Booker stood and delivered at the first debate of the four Democratic senatorial candidates on Monday night at Montclair State University.
Booker debated the issues with other Democratic hopefuls, including Rush Holt, Frank Pallone and Sheila Oliver. All are vying for the Senate seat vacated by longtime liberal politico Frank Lautenberg, who passed away earlier this year. All four candidates agreed to participate in at least two debates prior to the Aug. 13 primary. Assembly Speaker Oliver and Booker are the only two African-Americans running for the Senate. Among the topics discussed during the hour or so debate included hot-button issues such as the Affordable Care Act, unemployment and raising the minimum wage.
During his speech, Booker, 44, reiterated his accomplishments as head of Newark for nearly two terms—highlighting the decrease in the crime rate and the economic resurgence and sustenance of the Brick City, among other things. He vowed to achieve similar things as the state’s senator. Oliver discussed the issue of the state’s high unemployment rate in an effort to evoke support of her longstanding efforts to increase the state minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 per hour.
Lastly, in a related matter, talk show gabfest queen Oprah Winfrey hosted a private fundraiser last week at an upscale Jersey City restaurant. According to a source at the event, Winfrey greeted the crowd, endorsed Booker and said she seldom endorses political candidates. However, in the past, Winfrey has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to various charities and organizations, including several in Newark during Booker’s tenure as mayor. Booker also attended a private fundraising event in July at the home of New York socialite Ivanka Trump.
The winner of Tuesday’s primary will face Republican Alieta Eck or Steve Lonegan in a general election on Oct. 16 to fill the remaining 14 months on Lautenberg’s term and then run for a full term in the next general election.