An eight-candidate field for the Oct. 16 U.S. Senate special election has been set, with Cory A. Booker and Steven M. Lonegan as major party headliners, before Christopher Durkin closed his Essex County Clerk's office for the night by 11 p.m. here at the Hall of Records Aug. 13.
Nearly 34 percent of county voters joined others statewide in handing respective landslide primary election victories to current Newark Mayor Booker and former Bogota mayor Lonegan at the polls by 8 p.m. The voters, who cast ballot along Democratic or Republican party declaration, winnowed the major party fields from six aspirants - including Assembly Speaker and East Orange resident Sheila Y. Oliver.
Durkin and his staff meanwhile received petitions from Pablo Olivera, of Newark, and Antonio N. Sabas, of Irvington, to run as independent U.S. Senate candidates. Olivera and Sabas join Robert Depasquale, Eugene M. La Vergne, Stuart D. Meissner and Ed Stackhouse who also filed their independent candidacy petitions with their respective county clerks before their 4 p.m. deadline.
All eight candidates, barring the unexpected or unforeseen, are vying to succeed the late Frank Lautenberg in the U.S. Senate. Lautenberg, a former Nutley resident, died June 4 at age 89.
Gov. Christopher Christie (R-Mendham) promptly appointed State Attorney General Jeff Cheisa as interim senator and called on June 6 for special Aug. 13 and Oct. 16 elections to complete Lautenberg's unexpired term.
That a majority voters of parties faithful handed landslide primary victories to Booker and Lonegan before 8 p.m. Tuesday night came as no surprise to observers.
Booker, as of 10:31 p.m. Aug. 13, garnered 34,851 county votes or 66.78 of the Democratic vote. The Harrington Park native, according to Associated Press tallies, had carried all but three of New Jersey's 21 counties.
Congressman Frank Pallone, of Long Branch, at 8,863 votes or 16.98 percent, finished second in Essex County. Pallone carried his native Monmouth County, 45 to 36 percent, over Booker.
Oliver took third in Essex County by drawing 4,691 votes or 8.99 percent. The former Essex County Freeholder and East Orange Board of Education President also represents Orange and East Orange in the state General Assembly.
Cong. Rush Holt, Jr., ranked fourth with 3,723 votes or 7.13 percent. The Pennington native did carry Mercer and Hunterdon counties on his way to finish third over Oliver statewide.
Durkin's Election Division staff received 63 write-in votes for the remaining .12 percent. The above figures are unofficial by Durkin and his 20 counties' clerk colleagues for two weeks. Durkin and company, barring any challenges or recounts, are to certify results on Aug. 28.
Republican county voters joined their state colleagues in giving Lonegan a sweep over Alieta Eck.
Lonegan drew 3,450 votes for 74.11 percent of the county Republican electorate. Eck, a doctor from Somerset County's Franklin Township, garnered 1,831 or 24.30 percent. There were 74 write-ins to make up the remaining 1.59 percent.
Lonegan swept Eck and her supporters across all 21 counties statewide.
"Booker and Lonegan have comfortable leads," Durkin told "Local Talk" at 8:30 p.m. "Of the 550 voting machines deployed throughout the county, only 12 experienced technical problems."
Durkin had earlier expressed concern that the Aug. 13 election would be one of the quietest on record in terms of voter turnout. Part of the concern was that the special primary election was being held midsummer. Rain between 7 and 10 a.m. may have also hindered turnout volume.
Many voters may have had considered that Booker and Lonegan's nominations by ballot box were a foregone conclusion.
Booker, for example, had raised $6.1 million. Pallone, at $3.5 million, had the next largest campaign warchest. There were polls that gave the current Newark mayor double digit percentage leads.
Booker, in his 20-minute acceptance speech at the Prudential Center's "Championship Plaza," kept thanking his supporters and paid tribute to Lautenberg.
"Sen. Lautenberg worked hard for causes that made differences in New Jersey and in America," said Booker to a reception of around 500. "I respect Sens. Pallone and Holt and Speaker Oliver. We have to come together and work together in this sprint of a campaign."
Booker's reception included dozens of Newark, Essex County and state level officials. County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, for example, walked about 20 feet behind Booker before joining him on the temporary bandstand.
"I think that that the results reflect what the voters desire," said DiVincenzo, of Nutley. "It's time to rally around Cory Booker and send him to Washington, D.C."
"Local Talk" then asked if Oliver's job as Essex County Assistant Executive was in danger. DiVincenzo, Oliver's county supervisor, has been a wholehearted Booker backer.
"No, listen, no," responded DiVincenzo, who is up for re-election next year.
Oliver had meanwhile conceded before a nearby Broad Street office suite audience of about 50 at 10:11 p.m. She hinted in her concession speech, however, that she may run for U.S. Senate in 2014.
"This is part one - Let's call this the warm-up," said Oliver. "We'll finish the last weeks of summer, enjoy the Labor Day holiday and be back hitting the ground running because we've a lot of work to do in 2014."
This report is dedicated to the memory of Essex County Elections Deputy Clerk Eva Yanez. Yanez, 53, of Newark, died suddenly at home July 25, 2013.
written by Robert DePasquale, October 08, 2013