The three New Jersey Democrats who hope to pull a major upset of Newark Mayor Cory Booker in next Tuesday's Democratic Senate primary got their first chance to share the debate stage with him Monday.
And while Booker has largely avoided many serious attacks thus far in the race, Reps. Frank Pallone and Rush Holt did go after him during the debate at Montclair State University.
Here's the full video of the debate (things got a little more contentious in the last 15 minutes):
And here's a quick recap from the Star-Ledger:
And while state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone and Rush Holt kept it mostly cordial, they took some shots at Booker, mostly for his support of a school voucher proposal offered by Gov. Chris Christie.
"I very much disagree with Mayor Booker on this. I do not believe that vouchers are the answer," Pallone said. "I’m very concerned about how vouchers, which he supports, will take away funding from public schools. I believe in public schools."
When Booker responded that he, too, believes in public schools and that he helped bring $100 million in philanthropic funds into the city’s school system, Holt jumped in with a more pointed question.
"I’m interested that Mayor Booker was silent about vouchers that Mr. Pallone raised I would like to know how vouchers could help the schools in Newark or any other city," he said. "They just siphon money away."
But Booker was ready for the hit. He said both Pallone and Holt had voted in favor of the Washington DC Opportunity Scholarship Program — a voucher-like program that gives scholarships to low-income children.
"While they’re criticizing me I’d like them both to explain why they voted for the same position I have," Booker said.
The vote Booker referenced was actually a much larger appropriations bill that included the program.