One of Newark Mayor Cory Booker's rivals in New Jersey's special U.S. Senate election is calling himself "The Democrat" in a new web video. U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone uses the moniker at the end of the two-minute video, the first he has released in the campaign.
Booker is a commanding frontrunner in both the Democratic primary and the general election to fill the seat of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D), so his Democratic foes are seeking to paint him as insufficiently liberal. Pallone uses the video to portray himself as Lautenberg's natural heir. For their part, Lautenberg's family has endorsed Pallone over Booker, U.S. Rep. Rush Holt and state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver in the primary.
"Senator Lautenberg and I worked on a lot of legislation together. He basically was a workhorse," Pallone says in the video. "He did not care about the spotlight. He wanted to make sure that he spent his time in Washington working on legislation and other initiatives that would help people. I feel the same way."
The veteran congressman uses the rest of the video to tout his work on the Affordable Care Act, Social Security, higher education and the environment.
But Pallone has a lot of ground to make up. A HuffPost Pollster survey of recent polling shows Booker leading the Democratic primary with 53 percent, Pallone and Holt tied at 8 percent each, and Oliver at 3 percent.
Booker's rivals clearly hope that labeling him as too close to Republicans, including highlighting his views in favor of charter schools and his ties to Wall Street and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), will damage the popular mayor. In a fundraising email this week, Oliver takes a swipe at Booker for being cozy with Christie, while dismissing Pallone and Holt as "career Washington politicians."
Booker, meanwhile, has defended his credentials as a progressive. Since launching his Senate campaign, he has also made some inroads with Democratic leaders statewide, including appearing alongside Democratic gubernatorial nominee Barbara Buono and capturing the endorsement of Essex County Freeholder Brendan Gill, who was one of Lautenberg's top aides. Indeed, most of the state's Democratic establishment has backed Booker in the race.
Bad blood surfaced between Booker and Lautenberg when the former expressed his interest in seeking Lautenberg's Senate seat in the regular 2014 election before Lautenberg had even announced he would not seek reelection. After the senator's death, Christie scheduled the Aug. 13 primary and the Oct. 16 general election to fill the remainder of Lautenberg's term.