Republican Steve Lonegan slammed Newark Mayor Cory Booker for presiding over a “big black hole,” and Booker, the Democratic Senate candidate, tried to tar Lonegan with the “extremist” label since he supports the ongoing federal government shutdown.
With one week to go before next Wednesday’s special election, polls show Lonegan within single digits of Booker, a national celebrity mayor who was supposed to have snapped up the race. Booker is betting that voters will find his rival’s support for the government shutdown and opposition to immorality too extreme.
The two squared off in the second of two debates on Wednesday. The first had fireworks; this one contained explosive comments.
In a discussion about rolling back environmental regulations, Lonegan told Booker, “You may not be able to swim in that river, but it’s probably because of all the bodies floating around from shooting victims in your city.”
Lonegan defended the comment afterward, saying it illustrated the abundance of violent crime. Booker said it was insulting to people living in cities.
Newark has consistently been in the top five most violent U.S. cities in annual FBI statistics.
Earlier, Lonegan said too much of the state’s tax revenue “gets poured into a big black hole in Newark.” Booker, who is African-American, called the remark racially tinged.
Lonegan has been relentless. He held a press conference on a Newark street corner where someone had just been killed to call attention to city violence. He rolled out a red carpet while Booker was in California raising money with Hollywood celebrities. And he showed up outside a derelict property Booker once owned to highlight its decrepit condition.