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48% Of New Jersey Voters Left Out of Multi-Million Dollar Primary

by Alex Gauthier, published

The primary election for New Jersey's vacant Senate seat is less than a month away. New Jersey is one of 19 states with a closed primary system. This requires that only voters affiliated with one specific party can participate in that party's primary.

Six partisan candidates comprise the field ahead of August 13. Four on the Democrat side: Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Democratic Congressman Rush Holt, State Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, and Congressman Frank Pallone and two Republicans: Alieta Eck, a physician, and Steve Lonegan, the ex-mayor of Bogota.

In the latest Quinnipiac Poll Booker has the lead with over 50 percent.

"In a Democratic primary, Booker has 52 percent, with 10 percent for U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, 8 percent for U.S. Rep. Rush Holt and 3 percent for Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver. Another 26 percent are undecided."

In a hypothetical contest following the closed primary vote, Republican front-runner Lonegan would trail Booker, 53 to 30 percent. As Maurice Carroll remarked in the survey, "Newark Mayor Cory Booker seems to be a shoo-in for the U.S. Senate." Ultimately, a fraction of the state's 7.7 percent of primary voters will determine the election's outcome.

A more competitive Senate election would match Booker against a candidate with a broader base of support, regardless of party affiliation. Come August 13, the general election will merely become a formality.

Millions have poured into the special election race following Frank Lautenberg death in early June, which may close in on 2012 election levels of fundraising. Last year's Senate race cost Robert Mendez  about $13 million for his reelection, according to the Federal Elections Commission.

Thus far, Booker alone has raised $6.5 million and picked up a majority ($4.6 million) in the second quarter. His closest Democratic competitor, Frank Pallone, has raised about $3.3 million and Republican frontrunner, Steve Lonegan sits at nearly $200 thousand.

By restricting the election process New Jersey's 47 percent of non-affiliated voters will have their Senator chosen by less than 2.5 percent of the electorate.

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