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The best candidates for business as hopefuls file for special Senate race

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Six candidates — including four Democrats — have filed petitions today to run in the special U.S. Senate primary election scheduled for August, following a frantic schedule that required hopefuls to collect 1,000 signatures each in less than a week.

The deadline to file was 4 p.m. today.

The election will be to complete the term of Frank Lautenberg, who died June 3 of complications from viral pneumonia at age 89. Christie last week appointed his attorney general, Jeff Chiesa, to fill the office until the October special election. Chiesa, who was to be sworn in this afternoon, has said he won't seek the office permanently.

Each of the candidates has made economic development an area of focus, although the candidates have had different ways of going about the task. Below are summaries of the five candidates' records, listed by party and then in alphabetical order.

Cory Booker

Democrats

Cory Booker

The Newark mayor is perhaps best known nationally for his ubiquitous Twitter presence, but the second-term mayor also has logged a number of significant economic development victories in the Brick City.

A number of big-name companies have decided to relocate or expand within the city, including Prudential Financial Corp., which is building a new office tower downtown. Other companies are moving headquarters or sizable operations there, such as Panasonic Corp., Manischewitz Co. and the e-book company Audible Inc.

Two hotels are also under construction in Newark — the first new one in decades opened under his watch — and Booker has sought to reinvigorate the downtown, which has seen a number of new restaurants open following the completion of the Prudential Center, which his administration steered to the finish line after Sharpe James reached a deal with the New Jersey Devils to build there.

However, Booker also got in a public spat with the owner of the Devils' arena. A fight over parking revenues around the Prudential Center led the mayor last year to temporarily reduce the police presence in the area during Devils games. The two sides have since settled the disagreement.

In his State of the City address this spring, Booker also noted the construction of new housing, including affordable housing, in the city. He said 98 percent of apartments there are now leased, up from 90 percent in 2006.

Rush Holt

Rush Holt

The congressman began his career as a scientist, and his research background has shown throughout his 15 years representing Central Jersey in Washington.

Prior to winning his seat in 1998, Holt spent nine years as assistant director of the U.S. Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. The lab focuses on developing fusion energy as a long-term energy source for the nation.

As a congressman, Holt introduced legislation to expand a federal R&D tax credit, and sponsored a bill to give a temporary tax credit to research-focused small businesses. Both bills currently are in the hands of House committees.

Holt has also been a vocal supporter of the effort to create an R&D corridor in Central Jersey, known as Einstein's Alley.

While supporting new energy sources, Holt has also fought against some traditional energy sources, co-sponsoring legislation to curb offshore drilling and limit taxpayer exposure for environmental cleanup after oil spills.

Holt has supported tax breaks for companies that hire unemployed workers, tax relief for homeowners who don't itemize taxes and tax benefits for commuters who use public transportation.

Sheila Oliver

Sheila Oliver

Speaker Oliver held the Assembly's top office since 2010, when she became just the second African-American woman in history to lead a legislative house, and was first elected to represent East Orange in 2003.

Oliver's professional background includes work as a nonprofit administrator, educator and government official. She's currently an assistant administrator in Essex County, having previously served as head of the county's Department of Citizen Services and the Department of Economic Development Training and Employment.

In the Assembly, Oliver has focused on legislation aimed at helping the middle class and improving the state's labor climate.

She's been a vocal leader in the effort to raise the state's minimum wage and link the rate to the consumer price index, a movement adamantly opposed by business advocates in the state. She has also led Assembly Democrats in introducing a package of economic development bills in December. The package, much of which is still working its way through the Legislature, includes tax credits for hiring unemployed workers and veterans, job training to address workforce shortages, a biotechnology tax credit, and support for manufacturing firms.

Frank Pallone

Frank Pallone

A lawyer by trade, the congressman is serving his 13th term, and has maintained a focus on health care and environmental issues, as well as on the Shore economy, including the fishing and tourism industries.

Pallone was chair of the Health Subcommittee in 2009, where he helped shepherd through federal health care reform legislation — the Affordable Care Act, sometimes called "Obamacare." The law is causing much consternation in the business community as companies frantically prepare for the full rollout of the legislation.

More recently, he introduced the Sandy Disaster Fisheries Relief Act of 2013, which brought $193 million in federal aid to fisheries affected by Hurricane Sandy. He supports incentives for offshore wind and solar energy, but has advocated for the reduction of subsidies to oil and gas companies. Like Holt, he co-sponsored a bill to stop new offshore oil drilling.

In 2009, Pallone joined with Lautenberg in an unsuccessful push for reauthorization of the federal Beach Act, which imposes tighter water testing and public notification requirements for public beaches.

Pallone also is a proponent of sports betting, introducing legislation that would add New Jersey to the list of states allowed to take sports bets. Such a measure has been touted as one of the ways to help rescue Atlantic City from its fading revenue numbers. The bill was referred to committee last month.

Alieta Eck

Republicans

Dr. Alieta Eck

Eck brings three decades in health care to her run for the GOP Senate nomination. She is an internist who in 2003 founded Zarephath Health Center, in the Somerset section of Franklin, with her husband — and fellow doctor — John Eck. The center uses donated services to provide health care to low-income and uninsured patients.

According to a press release, Eck's office sees 300 to 400 patients per month, at a cost of just $13 per visit. She argues government intrusion into the health care system, through programs like Medicaid and copious paperwork requirements, is driving up the cost of health care. She has been a vocal critic of the health care reform legislation, arguing that Obamacare will only bring additional bureaucracy and hamper doctors' ability to serve their patients.

Eck is past president of the Association of American Physicians and Services, an Arizona-based physicians group that in 2010 sued over the health care reform law, asking a court to declare it unconstitutional.

Eck also has been active in local tea party movements, speaking to numerous groups in the area. Prior to filing for the seat Monday, she and the AAPS started a petition and phone call campaign urging Christie to appoint her as the interim senator for New Jersey. Christie chose his close confidant, Chiesa, instead.

Steve Lonegan

Steve Lonegan

The best-known Republican in the race is the former mayor of Bogota — and a familiar face to many politicos.

Lonegan unsuccessfully challenged Gov. Chris Christie for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2009. Until recently, he was a senior fellow at Americans for Prosperity, a group that advocates for free markets, lower taxes and less regulation.

Lonegan argues that the nation's tax and regulatory structure is making America less competitive and discouraging corporate investment. He's calling for a simplified U.S. tax code.

When he ran for governor in 2009, Lonegan's platform included a plan for a flat income tax. The rate would begin at 2.9 percent, and fall to 2.1 percent within two years.

Lonegan supported Christie's decision to pull New Jersey out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, calling it a "costly and complex scheme." He's also an ardent opponent of the federal health care reform law. Both positions mirror where most business organizations have stood on those issues.

Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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