Pallone calling for Senate debates

His Democratic rivals for the N.J. seat all supported the idea, without saying it was his.

Posted: June 19, 2013

TRENTON - U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone called Monday for multiple debates leading up to the August Democratic U.S. Senate primary in New Jersey, one of the first attempts by one candidate in the four-person race to engage the others.

The other three campaigns all supported the idea of debates and forums without giving Pallone credit for putting it out there first. All of them said they would look at debate and forum proposals as they roll in.

In making his call, Pallone, of Monmouth County, said voters should be able to make a decision that is not "based solely on slick TV ads and 20-second sound bites."

Often, it's the underdog in an election who pushes most vigorously for debates. And despite Pallone's early fund-raising lead, polls show him and the two other candidates far behind Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Booker said he wanted to "share the stage" with the other Democrats.

"Of course we need to have a series of debates," Rep. Rush Holt of Mercer County said in a statement. "Elections are ultimately about substance, and debates are the best way for voters to judge who is the most substantive and experienced candidate. That's especially important because some candidates in this race have never held federal office and have never shared their views on many issues facing New Jersey and our country."

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver of Essex County said she believes that turnout will be low for an August election, but that interested people will still take the time to pay attention to debates.

Gov. Christie called for a special election less than two weeks ago, the day after Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg died. Primaries are scheduled for Aug. 13 and the general election for Oct. 16. A Democratic lawyer is asking the state's Supreme Court to move the general election to November.

The winner of the Democratic primary will face one of two Republicans, former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan or Piscataway physician Alieta Eck.

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