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Candidate Booker’s Media Star Threatens to Eclipse Liberal Rivals

The powerful New Jersey Education Association feels the same way. Pallone and Holt have sharply criticized Booker for his support for the Opportunity Scholarship Act, a pilot program that would provide vouchers to schoolchildren at failing inner city schools to attend private schools -- an issue the Rev. Reginald Jackson, head of the Black Ministers Council, favors so strongly that he endorsed the Republican Christie for reelection for supporting it.

Booker also used about $50 million of the $100 million grant to help the Newark schools that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg donated on the Oprah Winfrey show -- a program that showcased Booker and Christie’s partnership in front of a national audience -- to fund a merit pay program for Newark’s teachers that is anathema to the NJEA.

Booker has repeatedly emphasized that he disagrees with Christie on more issues than he agrees with the GOP governor. But Holt and Pallone have seized on Booker’s friendship with Christie and Booker’s closeness with the Wall Street executives and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who have funded both of their campaigns to assert that the Newark mayor is too close to both the GOP and the monied interests to serve as a Democratic senator from New Jersey.

Pallone proudly touts his role in helping to write the Affordable Care Act and campaigned publicly and proudly for the bill at a time when Tea Partiers were shouting down its supporters at town halls and forums in New Jersey and across the country.

Holt, meanwhile, has campaigned on his support for a “single-payer system” of government-funded health care for all Americans along the line of Medicare and Medicaid, whose administrative costs are far lower than private-sector plans.

Neither position is designed to build consensus with Republican lawmakers who have made repeal of the Affordable Care Act their top priority if they take control of the U.S. Senate in 2014 to go along with their majority in the House of Representatives.

Indeed, Booker’s emphasis on the importance of changing the way Washington works to foster bipartisanship and reaching across the aisle has no tougher critic than Lonegan, the Republican he is likely to face if he wins tomorrow’s primary.

“There is no such thing as a middle ground with the liberal left,” Lonegan proclaimed in an interview with NJ Spotlight.

Nor is there with the Republican Right, Pallone and Holt argue -- a fact they predict that Booker would find out quickly if he wins.

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