Scudiery’s attacks come as little surprise to those familiar with New Jersey politics. Although the Monmouth County Democratic Party endorsed its native son, Pallone isn’t known to kowtow to party bosses throughout the state. South Jersey powerbrokers, led by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester), Assemblyman Lou Greenwald (D-Cherry Hill) and businessman George Norcross, have endorsed Booker. Although nearly two dozen Middlesex County political leaders have endorsed Pallone, the county’s party itself hasn’t officially endorsed anyone in the race.
Cook House Editor David Wasserman says Pallone is viewed as an outsider in Middlesex County, which holds most of the district’s Democratic votes and whose party leaders believe the seat should be held by a county resident. Further, he campaigned as an outsider when he first entered politics -- successfully running for Long Branch city council on a pro-environment platform -- and as Wasserman said, he “doesn’t come from the New Jersey Democratic Machine.”
So Pallone must look for support on his own -- finding it in the likes of former congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), the Recreational Fishing Alliance. and the State Council of the Sheet Metal Workers International Association. Though his endorsements could be viewed as relatively ineffectual, they haven’t stopped him from outpacing two of his opponents in fundraising. As of June 30, he had $3.3 million cash on hand, compared with $1 million for Holt and below the minimum reporting amount for Oliver. Booker, however, led with $4.5 million.
Booker, a legendary Twitter user, also dominates Pallone in social media influence. He boasts 1.4 million Twitter followers, most of them from outside Newark, while Pallone’s campaign and House accounts total just 11,600. Pallone says with such a short campaign it’s more effective to contact potential voters directly and argues that his 25 years of experience in Congress coupled with his immaculate ethical record can sway undecided voters.
“I have the experience in congress and I get things done,” he said. “I think it’s important to have a clean record because that’s what should be expected.”
But Pallone might have saved himself the trouble of running against a charismatic rising star like Booker if he’d only run in 2002, when he turned down an offer to run in place of Bob Torricelli, who backed out of his re-election campaign at the last minute, and in 2005, when he gave up his preliminary bid to eventual winner Bob Menendez.
Now, if Pallone loses, he’ll be able to keep his House seat. But most suspect that unless Menendez gets tapped to join a presidential administration or leaves for some other unforeseen reason, Pallone won’t get another chance to pursue his ambition to become a senator.
So while Duffy said, “If I were in his position I would run too . . . I don’t see whole lot of downside to this,” it’s these types of sacrificed opportunities that lead her colleague Wasserman to remark, “He’s one of the most dedicated and hardworking liberals in the House. He also may be one of the less politically savvy members of Congress.”