By Ricardo Kaulessar
It was supposed to be a rally at an East Orange church about raising the minimum wage in New Jersey. But the focus of the event Wednesday shifted immediately to both the U.S. Senate and governor races in the Garden State with the appearances of Newark Mayor Cory Booker, state Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver and state Senator Barbara Buono.
While the organizer of the event, Charles Hall, tried to keep press questions focused on the minimum wage issue, it was only a matter of time before reporters were aiming their queries at all things politics, especially when it comes to two U.S. Senate candidates under the same roof.
When Mr. Booker and Ms. Oliver were each asked about appearing at the same venue, they gave polite answers stressing their coming together for the common cause of getting the ballot initiative approved in November to raise the current wage from $7.25 per hour to $8.25 per hour.
“I’m proud that this is an issue that is uniting not just the leadership you saw before you but really over 70 percent of the New Jersey public,” Mr. Booker said. “The reality is that these primaries are often about discerning differences when policywise there aren’t many differences.”
Mr. Booker also said Ms. Oliver, like the other contenders, U.S. Congressmen Rush Holt and Frank Pallone, “are great people who have long records of service.”
Ms. Oliver brushed off any notion of tension from being in the same room as Mr. Booker, who has emerged as the frontrunner for the special election in August.
“No problem. We are one big happy Democratic family,” Mr. Oliver said. “I don’t have any tenseness dealing with Cory Booker, I have known him for a number of years.”
On the issue of Mr. Booker getting endorsements such as one on Tuesday from Mr. Oliver’s longtime colleague Stephen Sweeney, Ms. Oliver didn’t see that as an obstacle.
“Endorsements don’t vote for people, registered voters in the state of New Jersey are the ones who come to the polls and cast their ballots,” Ms. Oliver said.
And then there’s Ms. Buono, who will face off with incumbent Gov. Chris Christie and apparently is not looking to insert herself into another election.
“I’m not endorsing at this point and time,” Ms. Buono said. “Here we are united for one purpose and I don’t want to detract from that.”