By Art Gallagher
Now that she survived Steve Lonegan’s challenge to her petitions, it worth getting to know the political novice who was able to get 2,285 nominating signatures in three days, Dr. Alieta Eck. That was a task that was too much for many seasoned politicians.
From the looks of how the Special Election Senate race is shaping up, Newark Mayor Cory Booker is going to win in a landslide anyway. Booker has a huge lead over Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and Congressmen Frank Pallone and Rush Holt in the independent polls for the Democratic nomination. Lonegan is within striking distance of Pallone, Holt and Oliver in the Monmouth University Poll released last Friday, but loses to Booker by 16 points.
The only hope for a Republican to win the Senate seat in October is for someone other than Booker to be the Democratic nominee or for Booker to be badly wounded, politically, in a bloody Democratic primary. That doesn’t look like it is going to happen.
So far, Pallone and Holt are playing nice. Pallone is sending out emails asking people to recruit their friends to ‘Like’ his facebook page and volunteer for his campaign. Holt is posting on facebook asking non-Democrats to change parties in order to vote for him in the primary. If Oliver is doing anything, we haven’t noticed.
No one is mentioning all the shootings in Newark this week, that, if they were happening in Marlboro or Newtown, CT would be making national news. No one is asking Booker for his travel schedule or where he spends his weekends. Pallone tried to make an issue of Booker’s relationship with Governor Chris Christie, but Democrats seem to like Christie more than they like Pallone. No one is making an issue of Booker’s relationship with Wall Street, because Wall Street is investing a ton of money in Newark.
By virtue of the almost $4 million campaign war chest, Pallone would seem to have the best chance to beat Booker. In order to do that, Pallone would have to spend all of the money, and more, demonizing Booker on TV. It would be an easy ad campaign to design. News footage of Newark shootings, video of that crazy council meeting when Booker tried to slam through his own choice to replace Congressman Donald Payne, Jr on the city council with violence breaking out, and interviews with Newark elected officials and residents trash talking Booker. But it doesn’t look like Pallone will do that.
Maybe Lonegan will do it, if he wins the nomination and can raise enough money. He might as well. If Lonegan is the GOP nominee and the polls are close, the Democratic nominee, the National Democratic Senatorial Committee and/or some SuperPACs funded by Booker’s Wall Street friends will run plenty of nasty ads against Lonegan.
Besides a weakened Booker, Republicans need a candidate that can appeal to moderates in order to win the Special General Election and get reelected in November of 2014. Republicans need a candidate that sell can conservative solutions to an electorate that approves of President Obama by 51%.
Lonegan could be that candidate, but so far he stubbornly refuses to be. He is steadfast on attacking Obama when he should be attacking the problems/issues and offering conservative solutions.
Lonegan has significant strengths; an organization that was able to collect 7200 signatures in a week, a proven ability to raise money and an ability to generate free media better than any New Jersey Republican not named Chris Christie. He has better name recognition and higher favorability ratings among likely voters than Pallone, Holt and Oliver.
On the rare occasions that Lonegan shares his personal story of overcoming his disability, he is easy to love and hard not to like. Overcoming his disability is an important measure of the man, but he says he doesn’t like to use his story for political purposes. If he wants to be a U.S. Senator, he should let the electorate know who he is.
Lonegan also has significant weakness in addition to his unwillingness or inability to sell conservative solutions to a moderate electorate without attacking a Obama. He has proven unwilling or unable to mend fences with former allies he whom has angered or disappointed. He has a long record of outrageous quotes and videos that Democrats can and probably will, if the polls are close, use against him to scare moderates.
Lonegan’s challenge of Eck’s petitions proved to be ill-advised. Attacking Eck’s integrity as the basis for challenging the petitions was unseemly.
Eck survived the attack on her integrity with dignity and grace. Last week, I thought that Lonegan was the best chance of Republicans winning a U.S. Senate seat. Now I have doubts that the seat is winnable for Republicans, but I’m curious about Eck. I want to know more about her.
Eck gave an interview to WNYC’s Brian Lehrer yesterday. It’s embedded below if you’re interested. It made me want to learn more about her.