Newark is a crime-ridden "big black hole," Republican Steve Lonegan said Wednesday as he debated Newark Mayor Cory Booker, his Democratic opponent, with less than a week to go before New Jersey's special U.S. Senate election.
Gov. Chis Christie ordered the special election to fill the seat of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Polls have shown the race tightening. One poll this week reported Longegan closing to withing 6 points of Booker.
Lonegan and Booker argued Wednesday over abortion, crime, gay marriage, and the economy, according to The Newark Star-Ledger.
But things got especially contentious when Booker assailed Lonegan, the former director of Americans for Prosperity, for his opinions on environmental regulations, using the heavily polluted Passaic River as an example.
"You may not be able to swim in that river, but it’s probably, I think, because of all the bodies floating around of shooting victims in your city," Lonegan responded.
"Oh my God," Booker replied in disbelief.
In another exchange, Lonegan charged that "Taxpayers in the suburbs and rural areas of this state have been ripped off now for 30 years" because "income-tax and sales-tax money gets poured into the big black hole of Newark."
Booker later called the Republican's comments on Newark "insulting," and throughout the debate said he should quit "talking down to New Jersey's cities."
Booker also tried to link Lonegan with "tea-party extremists" while talking about the government shutdown and approaching debt-ceiling deadline.
Lonegan said he wants the government to reopen as soon as possible, but also favors, as do many Republicans in Congress, a one-year delay in Obamacare. He echoed conservative Republicans, saying he favors raising the debt limit if there are "corresponding spending cuts."
Lonegan, who referred to President Barack Obama as "tyrant," the Star-Ledger noted, expressed admiration for GOP conservative Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Marco Rubio of Florida.
For his part, Booker listed the Senate's bipartisan "Gang of Eight" that negotiated the Senate immigration-reform bill earlier this year as the kind lawmakers he looks up to.
Booker and Lonegan also disagreed on same-sex marriage. Booker supports it. Lonegan said voters, and not judges, should have the last word on the issue. He also questioned whether gay couples should be allowed to have children.
"I have mixed feelings about that," he said.
Throughout the debate, Booker sought to portray Lonegan as a tea party supporter, a strategy, Lonegan said, cooked up by Booker's handlers, according to the Star-Ledger.
At one point, Lonegan told the audience that some donors to his campaign would pledge $10 every time Booker used the words "tea party."
"Mayor, I know your consultants, your strategists, and your acting coach tell you to use the word 'tea party' as much as possible," Lonegan told Booker.
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