N.J. candidates crowd field to run for U.S. Senate seat

 Congressman Frank Pallone talks with reporters at the NJ Division of Elections office in Trenton before filing his petitions to be a candidate in the August Senate primary. (Phil Gregory/for NewsWorks)

Congressman Frank Pallone talks with reporters at the NJ Division of Elections office in Trenton before filing his petitions to be a candidate in the August Senate primary. (Phil Gregory/for NewsWorks)

The field of candidates for the special primary election for a U.S. Senate seat from New Jersey is taking shape.

Democrats who’ve filed nominating petitions to be in the race include Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, and Congressmen Rush Holt and Frank Pallone.

Pallone says the primary will be a campaign for the heart of the Democratic Party.

“I’ve always been a progressive. I believe very strongly that government can get things done,” Pallone said. “One of the things I want to do is make sure that people understand that government and Congress can make a difference.”

Republican candidate Steve Lonegan says he’s confident about his chances of winning the Senate race in October despite a registration edge by Democrats. In the GOP primary, Lonegan will face Somerset physician Alieta Eck.

“I’m going to cleave off their conservative voters and there are a lot of them,” said Lonegan. “A lot of these guys are out on the gun ranges on the weekend, or they care about their health-care issues.”

Initial polling shows Booker is the frontrunner among all the candidates, but analysts say that could change by Election Day.

Gov. Chris Christie said Monday he has no second thoughts on scheduling a primary in August and general election in October to fill Frank Lautenberg’s Senate seat.

Many are questioning how many people will show up for an election in the heat of the summer, but Christie says it’s up to candidates to excite voters.

“If you got boring visionless candidates, people are going to go to the supermarket instead,” Christie said. “If you have candidates which excite them and challenge them, then they’re going to come to the polls no matter what time of year it is.”

Monday was the deadline for candidates to file their nominating petitions for the August primary.

It was also the first day on the job for Sen. Jeff Chiesa, the former state attorney general appointed by Christie to the job until a new senator is elected.

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