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Democratic Battle For Rep. Holt's Seat Highlights Primary Day

Rob Rakossy

Monday, June 2, 2014 • 10:42pm

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Tuesday June 3 is primary day in New Jersey, and one of the key races everyone will be focused on will take place right here in our backyard.  That is the Democratic primary race in the U.S. House of Representatives 12th Congressional district, where four candidates are vying to be the candidate to be seen as the likely frontrunner to succeed retiring Congressman Rush Holt, who announced in February that he would not be seeking a ninth term in Washington.

The four candidates, New Jersey State Senator Linda Greenstein of Middlesex, Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman of Mercer, Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula of Somerset, and South Brunswick businessman Andrew Zwicker, have each been criss-crossing the district in the days leading up to Primary Day, trying to make one final push in the hopes of garnering the votes needed to make the difference. 

Chivukula and Zwicker have leveraged their previous experience as scientists as being a source of continuity to that of Rep. Holt.  Zwicker is the Head of Science Education at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, where Holt was an assistant director prior to his election to Congress. Chivukula has relied upon both his expertise as an engineer, and also that of being an immigrant with an understanding of immigration issues being useful should he move to Washington. He also paints himself as a progressive, and someone who is unafraid of moving to newer ideas.

Both Greenstein and Watson-Coleman are relying on being well known in both Mercer and Middlesex counties, which make up the majority of this congressional district. Both have strong support from labor, have great support from their leading constituencies, with Greenstein very early on getting the support from the powerful Middlesex County Democratic Organization, while Coleman-Watson gaining the same from her supporters in Mercer and Union Counties.  Both candidates portray themselves as leaders willing to stand up and get things done without waiting for popular opinion to dictate.

Either Greenstein or Watson-Coleman would be the first woman elected to Congress in New Jersey since Republican Marge Roukema retired in 2003. Watson-Coleman would be the first African-American  woman ever elected from New Jersey.

The winner of the primary will face Republican Aleita Eck in the November general election, with the democratic candidate expected to be an overwhelming favorite.

The latest Monmouth University polls had Greenstein with a slight lead over Watson-Coleman, with Chivukula and Zwicker trailing, but nearly a third of registered voters were still undecided.  All four candidates are urging everyone to get out and vote.

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