Citizens of the 12thcongressional district of New Jersey will elect two new representatives in the upcoming midterm elections, with Democratic candidate and Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman vying against Republican candidate Dr. Alieta Eck for the congressional seat, while Democratic candidate and incumbent Senator Cory Booker and Republican candidate Jeff Bell face off for the U.S. Senate seat.
With candidates of diverse backgrounds, both races are proving to have unexpected dynamics.
Polls from early September on the Senate election seem to indicate that the race may be closer than expected. RealClearPolitics, an online political news source and polling data aggregator, places Booker in the lead by 13 percent, with an average of 48.5 percent of those polled saying they will cast a vote for Booker. Booker, the former mayor of Newark from 2006 to 2013, won the Senate seat during the 2013 special election to replace the late senator Frank Lautenberg.
Nonetheless, Bell is trailing closer to Booker in the polls than pundits predicted.
“Why Booker isn’t further ahead, it’s hard to say,” Maurice Carroll, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll that was included in RealClearPolitics’ aggregate data, said, according to The Star-Ledger.
If Bell wins, he will be the first Republican candidate to win a New Jersey Senate race since 1982.
Though the outcome of the Congressional district race has yet to be predicted by a polling source, the race also features candidates of interesting backgrounds.
Not only will this year’s midterms be the first to not include former U.S. Representative Rush Holt as a candidate for the first time in 16 years, but both major party candidates on the ballot are women.
If either Watson Coleman or Eck is elected to the district congressional seat, they will be among the first women to represent New Jersey in Congress since 2003, and if Watson Coleman is elected she will be the first-ever African-American female representative from New Jersey in Congress.
Watson Coleman won the Democratic nomination after the June primary following Holt’s announcement in February that he would not pursue a ninth term in a competitive primary that included four candidates. Holt, who did not express support for any Democratic candidate in the primary, has since endorsed her.
Watson Coleman’s opposition in the race, Eck, is a physician and a former Republican special primary candidate in the 2012 Senatorial election. She ran unopposed in the Republican primary.
The economy is an important campaign issue for all party candidates, both in the congressional and senate races.
In particular, the Senate campaign platform of Bell, former policy adviser to Ronald Reagan, centers on reverting the United States to the gold standard, which would fix the value of a dollar to a certain amount of gold. Operating on a gold standard would address economic issues such as stagnation and keep prices stable, Bell argues.
In response to Bell’s argument, Booker has called the gold standard “defunct and debunked.”
Booker is not framing the economy as his main campaign issue. Instead, at an address at Camden County College in early September, Booker emphasized his willingness to work with Republicans on issues on which they share common ground.
“We need to bring this country together,” Booker said at the public address, according to the Associated Press.
In the district Congressional seat race, the Republican candidate Eck, like her Republican counterpart in the Senate race, is focusing on the economy. Three major points of her campaign include job growth, expanding the middle class through tax reform and reducing government spending.
Eck also supports the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a campaign point she also ran on in the 2012 special election primary.
While Eck focuses mostly on the economy and healthcare, Watson Coleman includes these sectors on a list of eight campaign points that also bring up a variety of social issues, including lesbian gay bisexual and transgender rights, voting rights, technology and women’s rights.
Beyond the candidates of the two major parties, there are also several independent candidates that will be on the ballot in November.
In the congressional seat election, Kenneth Cody of the Truth Vision Hope party is running, and is joined by Campus Dining Senior Operations Manager Donald DeZarn for the Legalize Marijuana party.
DeZarn previously ran for New Jersey State Senate in 2013 and lost. He has recently gained attention for petitioning the University for the right to continue working in Campus dining as a medical marijuana patient.
There are also five independent candidates running for the Senate seat, including Hank Schroeder for the Economic Growth party, Eugene Martin Lavergne for the Democratic-Republican party, Joseph Baratelli for the Libertarian party and Antonio Sabas and Jeff Boss as independent candidates without party affiliation.
The midterm election will be held on Nov. 4.