|US SENATE CANDIDATE CORY BOOKER|
Governor Chris Christie set the election date despite the protestations of his Rep-ugh-blican cronies who wanted him to use it to fill the vacant seat with a republican. He chose to set a special election prior to the upcoming New Jersey gubernatorial election.
And now the clock is ticking and as the time winds down, it looks as though Cory Booker is the clear front runner, much to the chagrin of his opponents - NJ Assembly Speaker, Sheila Oliver, .US. Rep. Rush Holt, and U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, all Democrats. Rep-ugh-blican opponents include Steve Lonegan and Alieta Eck.
Since Lautenberg's death in June, Booker has built a national following, with supporters coming from all over the US to be part of his victory. Prior to the special election, many had anticipated his running for a third term; while others (including yours truly) had hoped he would give Christie a run for his money and become the first African American governor of the state of New Jersey.
His track record on addressing such issues as curtailing gun violence, child poverty, economic development, crime issues, immigration,quality housing, education and other areas of concern have ranged from satisfactory to stellar. Coming in on the already progressive trail blazed by former Newark mayor Sharpe James, Booker has raised nearly $400 million in philanthropy to the city, which included a $100 million matching education grant from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Reversing what had been a downward slide, Newark has been on the upswing, with new projects and improvements almost daily. Newark has gone from a city that was once on the critical list to one that is making more than a comeback, it's leading the parade to progress.
Booker has garnered following across the Hudson, with local leaders like Chet Whye, who was campaign manager for New York in the Harlem for Obama Campaign 2012, pulling together phone campaigns and door knockers to make sure there is a significant turn out for the upcoming special election.
Statistically speaking, 70% of Newark's children live in low income families; however, educational standards and facilities have improved significantly. There are fewer shootings in Newark while there is still a significant crime rate.
While not everybody is impressed with Booker's track record, such luminaries as Oprah Winfrey, Jon Stewart and others are supporters of his candidacy. Many applaud the fact that he has been a “hands-on mayor,” chasing down criminals, allowing residents to stay in his apartment during Superstorm Sandy, shoveling snow during a blizzard, going on a 10-day hunger strike to bring attention to drug abuse.
Polls show that 70 percent of Newark residents support Booker, saying that the city is better since he's taken office. It's become a more attractive place to live, and recently an influx of new residents and businesses have been documented over the past year.
Of course, once Booker secures the position of Senator (notice I did not say “if”), the next burning question is who will step in as Newark's next mayor, to carry forward the progressive program already in motion. It will be interesting to see who is (s)elected to fill those shoes.
With three days and counting until the special election, an all out push is on to Get Out The Vote. And, though Booker is the clear front runner, no one should be taking anything for granted. Polls open at 6:00 in the morning and close at 8:00 in the evening. Jersey residents must make sure that you get up, get out, vote and get the rest of your friends, relatives and associates up and out to vote as well.