MONTCLAIR - Four New Jersey Democrats running for the U.S. Senate described differing views on privacy rights and surveillance practices during their first full debate Monday night.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker and state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver said the United States needs a balance between privacy rights and intelligence gathering during the forum at Montclair State University. U.S. Reps. Rush Holt and Frank Pallone took harder lines against intelligence agencies gathering data on citizens.
The four are vying for the party nomination to fill the remainder of late Democrat Frank Lautenberg's term. The party primary is Aug. 13. Two Republicans also are running. The winner of the Oct. 16 election will fill the remainder of Lautenberg's term.
They're all expected at another debate Thursday.
Booker has eschewed earlier forums that his opponents attended.
The winner of the Aug. 13 Democratic primary will face Republican Alieta Eck or Steve Lonegan in an Oct. 16 special general election.
The two Republicans, who have similar views on most issues, met last week in a debate that appears to be the only time they will face off. Eck has been appearing mostly at tea party and local Republican meetings while Lonegan has been holding news conferences and said Monday that he would be tweeting critiques of the Democrats as they debate.
The winner of the special general election will fill the remaining 15 months of Lautenberg's term. He died June 3 at age 89.
It's been an unusual election, because it's on a compressed timeline and includes unorthodox election days - a mid-August primary and an October election held on a Wednesday.
Campaigns and analysts alike are expecting low voter turnouts.
The Democratic primary includes an unusually high-profile and experienced field.
Booker, who had been raising money for a possible 2104 Senate campaign, has been on the air with television commercials the longest, though Pallone has run ads and Holt's first started airing Monday, as the race took on a new sense of urgency.
Booker put out a release Monday saying that Holt's ad was misstating some of Booker's positions. Also on Monday, former Monmouth County Democratic chairman Victor Scudiery announced he was paying his own money to send postcards to likely Democratic voters in the statewide - where Pallone lives - urging them to vote for Booker over the local congressman.
On many key issues, the four candidates have similar views, but some differences could emerge during the debate.
The two members of Congress are likely to emphasize their records while Oliver talks about her experience in a legislative leadership post and Booker about a willingness to work with Republicans on some issues.