By Charles W. Kim, Special Writer
It was not an election night U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, D-12, was used to.
As the eight-term congressman addressed several hundred supporters at the Nassau Inn, it was not in victory but in a resounding defeat in the special U.S. Senate Democratic primary on Tuesday night.
”I just spoke with (Newark Mayor) Cory Booker, who is most likely to be our next U.S. senator and to congratulate him (on his victory) and to let him know that I will work to make that happen in October,” Mr. Holt said.
Mr. Booker easily won the special primary against three opponents with 59 percent of the vote statewide, amassing almost 209,000 of the 354,000 Democratic votes cast, according to unofficial results posted by each of the counties in the state.
Gov. Chris Christie called for the special primary and a special general election in October to fill the term of the late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died earlier this year.
Four Democrats and two Republicans competed in the contest with Mr. Booker and Republican Steven Lonegan, both pulling away from their respective fields.
Mr. Lonegan won 80 percent of that party’s votes, taking in almost 100,000 of the 125,000 total votes cast, defeating Dr. Alieta Eck in the GOP race.
In addition to Mr. Booker, Mr. Holt faced fellow Rep. Frank Pallone and state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver.
Mr. Pallone and Mr. Holt ended up with around 69,000 and 60,000 votes, respectively, while Ms. Oliver placed a distant fourth with around 15,000 votes, or about 4 percent, according to the counties.
Mr. Holt praised the efforts of his campaign in working so hard in such a compressed time frame set out by Gov. Christie.
”We had six weeks to do about two years of work,” Mr. Holt said. “Gov. Christie set the (election) schedule before Sen. Lautenberg was laid to rest.”
Mr. Holt said he felt his campaign had elevated a discussion of the issues, and he would continue to work on a variety of “progressive” issues when he returns to Washington.
Following his speech, he said it is good “to lose” once in a while to keep his campaigning alive and focused.
He also said he feels Mr. Booker would be an asset in the U.S. Senate, and he will support him when he goes up against Mr. Lonegan in October.
The outcome Tuesday night was not totally unexpected.
Mr. Booker carried a huge lead in polling since the special elections were announced.
Despite the apparently uphill battle faced by Mr. Holt and his volunteers, supporters Tuesday night praised the congressman for his service during the last 15 years.
Supporter MaryAnn Cavallaro, of Princeton, said she has supported Mr. Holt for years, and he has helped her with constituent issues.
She said she spent time working the phones on his behalf during the campaign.
”I don’t think he hit his groove (in the campaign),” she said.
Another supporter, Jennifer Fearon, 22, of West Windsor, interned for Mr. Holt while attending Barnard College in New York in 2010 for political science and human rights.
During that time, she worked with constituents in the West Windsor office, dealing mainly with immigration issues.
”It was a great experience,” she said. “The staff was amazingly welcoming.”
She said she has continued to support Mr. Holt and felt he would do a great job as a senator.
Other politicians from the area also attended the election night “watch party,” including state Sen. Shirley Turner and state Sen. Linda Greenstein, who represents the 14th legislative district.
Plainsboro Mayor Peter Cantu also attended and expressed his support for Mr. Holt.
Mr. Holt took another term in the House of Representatives in January.
When asked if he has any plans to possibly take another stab at the Senate seat when it opens again next year, he said, “it is too early” to make that decision.
By Charles W. Kim, Special Writer