- Associated Press - Monday, September 1, 2014

Here are 5 things to watch as New Jersey’s election season ramps up:

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BOOKER’S TEST

Jeff Bell is trying to become the first Republican from New Jersey to be elected to the U.S. Senate since 1972. He’s running against Democratic incumbent Cory Booker.

Booker, a former Newark mayor, won a special election in 2013 to complete the term of the late Frank Lautenberg. A Quinnipiac poll in August showed Bell 10 points behind Booker.

Booker is planning a series of campaign kickoff events around the state this week.

Bell, who was on the U.S. Senate ballot in 1978, meanwhile, is trying to get attention for the issue at the center of his candidacy: raising interest rates and returning the dollar to the gold standard.

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THE HOUSE VARIABLE

Two years ago, New Jersey elected six Republicans and six Democrats to the U.S. House.

Even though one incumbent resigned this year and two others aren’t seeking re-election, only one race is seen as particularly competitive.

That’s in the 3rd District - now held by Republican Jon Runyan, who isn’t seeking re-election. Republican Tom MacArthur, a former mayor of Randolph who has put $3 million of his own money into his campaign, is facing Democrat Aimee Belgard, a Burlington County freeholder.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chose the seat for one of its first two Independent Expenditure television ads of the midterms, and it has reserved $1.3 million in airtime for the race through Election Day. The National Republican Congressional Committee has been fighting back. It has booked $1.8 million worth of TV airtime in the Philadelphia broadcast market, which could be used for ads in this district and in two potentially competitive Pennsylvania races.

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EX-NFLER GETTING ATTENTION

In a race for the seat held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews, who resigned this year, Philadelphia Eagle linebacker-turned-radio-personality Garry Cobb, a Republican, has a tough fight ahead against state Sen. Donald Norcross, the brother of Democratic powerbroker George Norcross.

The race in the reliably liberal district, which includes Camden, has gotten nasty. Cobb, who is black, has been gaining national attention with appearances on the conservative television circuit, accusing Democratic lawmakers - including President Barack Obama - of failing minority communities by supporting welfare policies he says have broken up families. South Jersey civic leaders have responded by saying Cobb has extremist views.

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LESS DRAMA IN CENTRAL NEW JERSEY

In the June primary, the state’s most closely watched primary was in the 12th Congressional District, where Democrat Rush Holt is retiring from Congress.

Three Democratic state lawmakers battled it out for the party’s nomination, with Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman prevailing. She is a heavy favorite over Republican Alieta Eck.

Either way, the race assures that New Jersey will have at least one female member of Congress for the first time since Marge Roukema retired in 2003.

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DO YOU WANT TO CHANGE THE CONSTITUTION?

New Jersey voters are being asked to approve two amendments to the state constitution.

One would end the right to bail, a change that would be a major part of an overhaul of the state’s bail system. Democrats and Republicans favor changes that would let judges keep suspects considered dangerous behind bars while freeing lower-level suspects until their trials.

The second measure would set up a funding system for open space preservation by dedicating part of the state’s business tax to it. Gov. Chris Christie says he opposes the measure.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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