MONTCLAIR, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – All four Democrats running for the U.S. Senate in New Jersey are scheduled to debate for the first time.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Rep. Rush Holt, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and Rep. Frank Pallone are all scheduled to be at Montclair State University on Monday night for a debate that is scheduled to be shown live on NJTV.
All of the candidates are also scheduled to appear at another forum Thursday at the studios of WBGO-FM in Newark.
Booker has eschewed earlier forums that his opponents have attended.
The four are on the Aug. 13 primary ballot, and the winner will face Republican Alieta Eck or Steve Lonegan in an Oct. 16 special general election. The winner of that contest will fill the remaining 15 months of the term of late Sen. Frank Lautenberg.
Strategists and politics followers expect that perhaps 1 in 10 eligible voters — the 2.85 million registered as Republicans or Democrats — will participate in the Aug. 13 primary.
“Only the most committed voters are going to show up,” Ben Dworkin, head of the New Jersey politics program at Rider University, told WCBS 880′s Peter Haskell.
Polls have shown former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan with a large lead over Franklin Township physician Alieta Eck in the Republican race and Newark Mayor Cory Booker way ahead of three opponents on the Democratic side. Booker also is considered the front-runner in the general election.
Dworkin and Brigid Harrison, who teaches political science at Montclair State University, said the candidates’ positions on the issues are very similar and much of the race is focused on personality.
“The issue differences between these four candidates are very, very slight,” Dworkin said.
“What we’ve seen is that there’s a lot of personality-based politics,” Harrison said. “We haven’t seen this kind of grand national debate that you would expect.”
Among the issues the candidates have talked about are Booker’s call for a plan to reduce child poverty, Holt’s support for taxes on polluters and stock trades, Oliver’s calls for gun control and Pallone’s bill to alter the way Medicare reimburses doctors.
On the Republican side, Eck has talked about scrapping President Barack Obama’s health insurance overhaul and instead giving doctors incentives to treat uninsured patients for free. Lonegan has spent much of his time bashing the Democrats’ ideas and calling on lower taxes and cutting the scope of the federal government.
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