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Senate Candidates Fight For Last-Minute Votes

Voters hit the polls Tuesday in New Jersey's special primary election.

The Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate -- Newark Mayor Cory Booker, state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone and Rush Holt.
The Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate -- Newark Mayor Cory Booker, state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone and Rush Holt.

As candidates in the U.S. Senate race make their last-minute appeals for your votes in Tuesday’s special primary election, the campaign that started as a polite, placid affair has gotten more aggressive in the waning days.

Cory Booker, ahead in the polls and widely predicted to win Tuesday’s primary, has been under fire in the last days of the campaign, with new revelations about payments he received from his former law firm.

Those revelations, detailed in a Sunday story in the New York Post, follow questions about Booker’s involvement in a tech start-up with heavy ties to his Senate campaign.

The hits to Booker's campaign have given his competitors – U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone (D-6) and Rush Holt (D-12) and state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-34) – new hope in campaign that has mainly been Booker's race to lose.

"The questions just keep piling up around Cory Booker’s candidacy for Senate, particularly around the millions of dollars flying around between the SuperPACs, his campaign and his own personal bank account, and the mayor should answer those questions before Tuesday’s election," Pallone said in a statement.

On the Republican side, GOP frontrunner Steve Lonegan is having troubles of his own.

During the Democratic primary debate last week, a Lonegan staffer sent a racially-charged tweet that has rankled the Booker camp and brought unwanted attention to the campaign of the former Bogota mayor.

 The tweet read:  

"#breaking just leaked - Cory Booker’s foreign policy debate prep notes," and below it was a map of heavily African-American Newark. Scrawled over the map in different places was, "West Africa, Guyana, Portugal, Brazil." Another annotation, pointing to Newark, read, "Middle East,”" followed by "Afghanistan, Pakistan, plus Bangladesh and Trinidad."

The incident brought rebukes from the Booker camp and from Lonegan’s challenger in the GOP primary, Alieta Eck, whose campaign called Lonegan "unviable" as a candidate because of the incident.

Lonegan has declined to apologize for the tweet and at a campaign event over the weekend appeared to double down on that decision. 

"I have a handicap, you know," the former mayor of Bogota said, as quoted by The Bergen Record. "I am a white guy running in the state of New Jersey. That is my handicap."

And on the final day of campaigning, the four candidates are trying to squeeze in as much campaigning as possible, some with a little help.

All four Democratic hopefuls had about seven minutes apiece to make their case on public radio Monday morning.

And Booker, who Monday continues his bus tour, was scheduled to be joined by "Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria for a campaign rally.

Holt is scheduled to make an appearance on The Colbert Report on Comedy Central Monday night.

But the real story of this election just may be voter turnout, or lack thereof.

"I think this is going to be an election with a very low voter turnout," Pallone told MSNBC.

Last year's Senate primary was held in June. Also on the ballot were choices for a presidential race, a House of Representatives race and three state legislative contests.

About 9.3 percent of registered voters – or 485,340 people – cast a ballot for a Senate candidate when Democrat U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez ran unopposed and state Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-13) ran with little opposition in the GOP primary. 

Menendez received 272,201 votes and Kyrillos garnered 163,817, of the 5.2 million registered voters in the Garden State, according to the state Division of Elections.

Polls open tomorrow at 6 a.m., closing at 8 p.m. Tuesday Voters can look up their polling place on the Division of Elections website.

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