By Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron
They were all here, all five Democrats featured on the ballot this summer and fall — Cory Booker, Sheila Oliver, Barbara Buono, Frank Pallone and Rush Holt.
What brought them together was a union-sponsored press conference in Newark on foreclosure outside the home of a union shop steward facing the loss of her home.
“This is our castle. This is our little piece of the pie, the American Dream. And we’ve worked hard to earn this, but Bank of America has a different idea,” Grace Alexander, SEIU shop steward, said.
According to the union, New Jersey has the second highest foreclosure rate in the nation.
Eighty-eight thousand homes here have been foreclosed since 2008, and twice that many are in the foreclosure pipeline.
One criticism you occasionally hear of the Christie administration is that it was slow to disperse $300 million of federal foreclosure assistance authorized in 2010 and is still sitting on 90 percent of that money.
“When it was time to disperse those monies, what did this governor do? He dragged his feet until a reporter put his feet to the fire,” Buono said.
“The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs employed five people to process applications. Applications were backed up 1,200, 1,300. It was not until the media focused on what was going on in the DCA that the governor then increased staff capacity to 55 people so that applications could move,” Oliver said.
“Poverty is not just a problem for poor folks. The foreclosure crisis is not just a problem for people whose homes are at risk of foreclosure. We are all wrapped in a common garment of destiny, as King said,” Booker said.
“Y’know this governor has to be called to task. He still has to do it, it’s not too late. The money’s there. Get the DCA moving,” Pallone said.
The presence of all this Democratic star power nearly masked the rivalry between four of them, vying to succeed the late Frank Lautenberg in an August primary.
Yesterday the Lautenberg family came out in favor of Pallone.
“I was very pleased with the Lautenberg family endorsement because I’d like to continue his legacy,” Pallone said.
“It was expected. I’m not a Washington guy. These are families that have been down and engaged in Washington for decades. They’ve gotten to know each other, they’ve had personal relationships. This shouldn’t be surprising,” Booker said.
Oliver is running to represent women and dismissed Mayor Booker’s 40-point lead in most polls.
“This cycle is to fill an unexpired term. There will be another election for a six-year term. Do not rule out that I will not be back for that six-year term,” Oliver said.
Holt was quoted this weekend as saying he’s a workhorse not a show-horse. When asked if that was a swipe at Booker, Holt said, “I’m a work-horse. Ask anybody on my staff, they’ll tell you.”
“Let’s not demean each other. The reality is we’re all workhorses, we’re all hardworking people, we’re all dedicated. The voters have a great crisis of riches here,” Booker said.
“This is the Democratic Party. Right here, right now,” Buono said.
One message, five agendas.