published Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

New Jersey to send woman to Congress; Sen. Cory Booker to face Jeff Bell

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey primary voters assured that the state will have a woman representative in Congress next year, while U.S. Sen. Cory Booker will face a retired Washington policy consultant in a race the Democrat is heavily favored to win.

State Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman won a battle of state lawmakers in the 12th District Democratic primary on Tuesday, defeating state Sen. Linda Greenstein and two others. Physician Alieta Eck, who ran unopposed, picked up the Republican nomination in the heavily Democratic district stretching from Trenton to Plainfield. The winner will become New Jersey's first female representative in a dozen years, succeeding the retiring Rep. Rush Holt.

Voters also set up a potentially competitive 3rd District general election battle between former Randolph Mayor Tom MacArthur, a self-funded Republican, and Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard, who easily won a three-way Democratic primary.

MacArthur, a former insurance executive, poured $2 million of his own money into the race against perennial candidate Steve Lonegan, who spent $800,000, including $300,000 of his own. Both moved into the district to run.

The current congressman, former Philadelphia Eagle Jon Runyan, a Republican, is not seeking re-election in the district that cuts across the center of the state from the Philadelphia suburbs to the shore.

At the top of the ticket was a Republican U.S. Senate primary won by former Washington D.C., policy analyst Jeff Bell. The 70-year-old retiree has run for Senate twice previously, in 1978 and 1982.

No big-name Republicans stepped forward for the chance to be a heavy underdog in a race against Booker, who won a special election last year to finish the term of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Booker was unopposed on the Democratic side.

Gov. Chris Christie, who has worked with Booker on education issues such as merit pay for teachers, didn't field a GOP candidate to challenge the former Newark mayor.

In another contested congressional primary, the brother of the state's most powerful Democratic powerbroker took a step toward taking the seat in heavily Democratic 1st District.

Sen. Donald Norcoss, the brother of insurance executive George Norcross, will face Republican and former Philadelphia Eagle Garry Cobb in the fall in the heavily Democratic 1st District. Norcross beat two rivals, including Logan Township Mayor Frank Minor, for a chance at the suburban Philadelphia seat.

The seat had been held for more than two decades by Rep. Rob Andrews, who resigned in February.

Cobb emerged from a four-candidate GOP primary and in his victory speech took aim at the Norcross brothers. "The Norcross political machine believes they can pick and choose our elected officials at will," Cobb said.

Republican Reps. Frank LoBiondo in the 2nd District, Leonard Lance in the 7th, and Rodney Frelinghuysen in the 11th and Democrat Donald Payne Jr. in the 10th will all be on the ballots in the November general election after easily fending off primary challenges.

The state's congressional delegation stands at five Democrats and six Republicans with Andrews' open seat traditionally held by a Democrat. Both senators are Democrats.

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