EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The widow of U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg threw her support Monday behind Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone to fill her late husband’s vacant seat, touting Pallone as a “go-to guy” in the House on environmental issues and a legislator with a lengthy track record of accomplishment.
Bonnie Lautenberg also took a few mild swipes at Pallone’s chief Democratic competitor in next month’s primary, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, as a candidate whose numerous TV appearances and celebrity connections won’t necessarily translate to effective governing.
The event held in the parking lot of a Lowe’s home improvement store on busy Route 17 was Bonnie Lautenberg’s first public appearance with Pallone since she and her family announced they were endorsing him two weeks ago. In that statement, the family referred to the late senator as “a work horse, not a show horse,” a veiled reference to Booker, who has been a frequent guest on talk shows and cable news shows, and has received campaign donations in the past from Hollywood heavy hitters such as Steven Spielberg and Barbra Streisand.
“Being great on TV and raising money outside the state doesn’t mean you’re going to be the most effective in the United States Senate,” Bonnie Lautenberg said Monday. “You have to look at how they’ve done in their current jobs. I know that Frank Pallone has done a really good job representing his district in the House and will do a great job in representing the citizens of New Jersey as a U.S. senator.”
“They’re going to be conscious of the issues. They’re going to want to know who’s most effective,” he said. “I don’t think they really care about celebrity status or who they see on the talk shows.”
The Booker campaign didn’t immediately respond to the comments Monday.
Pallone picked the site of Monday’s event because it is a former toxic waste site that was cleaned up under the federal Superfund program. Pallone announced at the end of May that he had reintroduced a bill to restore a tax on oil and gas companies that would replenish a federal fund used to clean up toxic waste sites.
“When my husband needed help on environmental issues in the House of Representatives, he always knew what to do,” Bonnie Lautenberg said. “He called Frank Pallone. Frank Pallone was the go-to guy who had the experience and know-how to get things done.”
“He and Frank Pallone worked together on cleaning up Superfund and brown field sites, holding polluters accountable, stopping ocean dumping and protecting New Jersey’s beaches,” Lautenberg added.
“My whole theme in this campaign is that I can be effective in getting things done, and that’s what Sen. Lautenberg was all about. He didn’t worry about publicity,” said Pallone.
Booker’s campaign released a TV ad Monday that spoke of his priorities of reducing child poverty, protecting Medicare and Social Security from cuts, achieving equal pay for equal work, and raising the minimum wage.
Asked about Booker’s friendly relationship with Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, Pallone said it “hasn’t helped” because Christie hasn’t changed his positions on some of those issues, including gay marriage.
Rep. Rush Holt and State Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver are also vying for the Democratic nomination. The special general election will be held in October.
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