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Voters in New Jersey to decide nominees in special election primary

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August 12, 2013

New Jersey

By Jennifer Springer

Trenton, New Jersey: Tomorrow the primary elections will be held to determine the two candidates who will run to fill the seat of former New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, who died in June at the age of 89.[1] Polls are open from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm Eastern Time.[2]

The two winners of the primaries will compete in a special election on October 16.[1] Lautenberg’s now-open term began in January 2009 and expires in January 2015.[1]

There are four candidates vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination are Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Rep. Rush Holt, State Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and Rep. Frank Pallone.[1]

Two candidates are facing off for the Republican Party’s nomination. Political newcomer and physician Dr. Alieta Eck is challenging former Mayor of Bogota Steve Lonegan.[1]

In June, Gov. Chris Christie chose to appoint Attorney General Jeff Chiesa to fill the vacant seat. Chiesa, who has not expressed interest in becoming a career Senator, will serve in the Senate until the special election is held in October.[1]

Governors have discretion in picking the date for the special election. Gov. Christie could have chosen the special election to coincide with a statewide election on November 5, but instead picked a day when the only race on the ticket will be the race for Lautenberg’s vacant seat.[1]

Cory Booker (D) and Steve Lonegan (R) have dominated polls leading up to the primary, and both have widely been expected to win their parties' nominations.[3] Their opponents, though, are hoping that the unusual Election Day could provide one final wild card and limit the advantages of the better-known favorites.[3] Frank Pallone (D) commented after a debate on August 8, 2013, in Newark, "I just don't believe the polls. I think the turnout is going to be the key, and we really don't know who's going to vote."[3]

Low-turnout is expected, with around 1.2 million voters — less than half the New Jersey electorate in 2012.[4]

Gov. Chris Christie announced in July 2013 that counties will be reimbursed for the additional costs of holding the special elections in 2013.[5][6]

The Office of Legislative Services has estimated the cost for renting polling places, transporting voting machines, printing and mailing ballots and hiring additional staff will be close to $24 million.[7] At a news conference, Christie said he's still not sure what the actual costs to each county will be.[7]

“As soon as they send in their bills, we'll audit them, look at their books to make sure no one is trying to play games with us and get something for nothing,” Christie said.[7] The Division of Elections expects to reimburse counties before December 31, 2013.[7]

Democrats are heavily favored to retain the seat, as New Jersey has not elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate in 40 years.[8]

“The general opinion is that Booker will win the Democratic primary pretty easily, and will probably run in the special general election against a fairly weak Republican opponent and win easily,” Wilson School Professor of Politics and Public Affairs Nolan McCarty predicted.[1]

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