Candidates Show Interest in Supporting Tech Ahead of Senate Primaries

Photo: Cory Booker spoke about immigration reform at the TechVoice meeting recently. Photo Credit: Esther Surden
Cory Booker spoke about immigration reform at the TechVoice meeting recently. | Esther Surden

Four Democrats and two Republicans are competing in party primary elections on Tuesday, August 13, 2013 for the right to compete in a special election to replace recently deceased Senator Frank Lautenberg.

Many of the candidates have shown an interest in New Jersey’s tech community. Here’s a little on each candidate to help you decide, starting in alphabetical order with the Democrats and ending with the Republicans:

Cory Booker (D)

Current job:  Mayor of Newark

Age: 44

Campaign website:

Booker graduated with an undergraduate degree in political science and a graduate degree in sociology from Stanford University, where he also played football. He studied at Oxford under a Rhodes scholarship and earned a law degree from Yale. He won election to the Newark City Council in 1998, and though he lost his first race for Mayor in 2002, Booker won in 2006 with over 72% of the vote. He was reelected in 2010.

Booker is an avid user of social media, regularly tweeting to almost 1.5 million followers. As Mayor, Booker has tried to support the tech community in Newark, hoping to revitalize a city that has stagnated from economic downturns and the decline of heavy industry.

Booker has supported crowdfunding for startups and integrating new technology with local government. He recently attended a hackathon at Audible’s headquarters in Newark.  It’s also well-known that Booker is a cofounder of Waywire, a video curation tech startup in New York. His controversial participation in the startup, which appears to be struggling, was the subject of a recent New York Times article.

Booker has published several policy papers on his campaign website, including one on innovation, where he called for the building of more science parks. “Science parks cluster science and technology companies by providing access to high-tech facilities, university resources, and large concentrations of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workers,” Booker said.

Rush D. Holt, Jr. (D)

Current Job: Representative for New Jersey’s 12th Congressional District

Age: 64

Campaign website:

Holt, who has a PH.D in physics from NYU, didn’t enter politics until his late forties, though his father, Rush Holt Sr., served as a Senator from West Virginia during the 1930’s. The younger Holt taught physics, public policy and religion at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. Holt also worked as a Congressional Science Fellow, led the Nuclear and Scientific Division of the Office of Strategic Forces and the U.S. Department of State, and was the assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

Since first coming to Congress in 1999, Holt has called for a permanent research and development tax credit and opposed the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA). Holt introduced the America Innovates Act in 2012, a bill to help researchers and entrepreneurs take innovate ides to the marketplace, though the bill did not pass during debate in the House Science, Space and Technology committee.

As a Senate candidate, Holt has called for more public investment in research and development and more funding for math and science education. “The jobs of the future will demand high-level skills in math and science – but just as importantly, the ability to “think like a scientist” is vital to workers in any field,” Holt said through his campaign website.

Holt keynoted a New Jersey Tech Council Innovation Conference in October of 2011 calling for R & D credits to be “tradable.” He is also is known as the member of Congress who defeated the Watson Jeopardy computer. Recently Holt made a video against High Frequency Trading.

Sheila Oliver (D)

Current job:  Assemblywoman for New Jersey’s 34th Legislative District; Speaker of the New Jersey Assembly

Age: 61

Campaign website:

Oliver ascended to role of Speaker of the New Jersey State Assembly in 2010. She has represented East Orange and surrounding towns since 2004 and serves on the Assembly committees for Human Services, Higher Education, and Labor. She previously won election to the East Orange Board of Education and the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

Oliver earned an undergraduate degree in sociology from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and a graduate degree in planning and administration from Columbia. She helped found the Newark Coalition for Low Income Housing, whose successful lawsuit in federal court ordered the Newark Housing Authority to guarantee replacements for residents before demolishing the city’s public housing project.

On her campaign website, Oliver has called for training workers for a modern economy. “Speaker Oliver also believes in addressing the skills gap – the gap between our people and the jobs we have available that need to get done,” Oliver said.

Frank Pallone (D)

Current job: Representative for New Jersey’s 6th Congressional District

Age: 61

Campaign website:

Pallone graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Massachusetts, and the Rutgers School of Law in Camden. He served as a city councilman in Long Branch from 1982 to 1988 and the New Jersey State Senate from 1984 to 1988.

Pallone has served the Energy and Commerce House Committee, and is on the Communications and Technology and the Environment and Economy subcommittees. He also served on the Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs subcommittee on the Committee of Natural Resources.  He is the co-chairman of House Armenian Caucus and has received awards from the governments of Armenia and India. Pallone has met with academics and researchers hoping to help make the data industry an economic engine for New Jersey.

Pallone, who is a member of the House Progressive Caucus, is promoting his support for public education on his Senate campaign website. Pallone has supported the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to “to reflect the growing knowledge and understanding of how we can best educate our children and argues that federal law should reflect the growing need for innovation in education and development of modern skills in public schools.”

Alieta Eck (R)

Current job: Physician

Age: 62

Campaign website:

Eck is running in her first race for political office. The Franklin Township resident graduated from the St. Louis University School of Medicine and has been practicing in Piscataway since 1988. In 2003 she and her husband founded the Zarephath Health Center, which recruits volunteer doctors and nurses to provide free medical care to several hundred low-income patients.

Eck has served as president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a politically active non-profit organization that opposes socialized health care. Eck currently serves on the board of Christian Care Medi-Share, a faith-based medical program. In 2004, she testified on health care before the Congressional Joint Economic Committee.

Eck shows her support for business by calling for relaxed government regulations. “As the budget deficits have grown, so too has the overregulation of industries in this country” Eck said through her campaign website. “Excessive regulation curbs the creation of new businesses, and often forces businesses to close or relocate jobs to other countries.”

Steve Lonegan (R)

Current job: On hiatus as New Jersey state director and senior policy analyst for Americans for Prosperity

Age: 57

Campaign website:

Lonegan graduated with an undergraduate degree in business administration from William Paterson University and a graduate degree in business administration from Farleigh Dickinson University. He has owned businesses for custom home building and cabinet-making. He served as the state national and finance vice president for the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

He served as Mayor of Bogota from 1995 to 2007. He declined running for reelection in 2007 and instead joined the public policy think tank Americans for Prosperity. Under Lonegan’s leadership the group fought several statewide ballot questions. Lonegan also filed lawsuits against the State of New Jersey, Governor Jon Corzine and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority over state debt.

According to his Senate campaign website, Lonegan opposes federal government involvement in education. “Steve Lonegan believes the federal government role in education has been an overall negative and strongly opposes the Common Core curriculum standards and other attempts by Washington DC to regulate and control our local public schools,” the website said.

[Ed. Note. sought original answers from the candidates on the topics of bringing tech jobs to NJ and improving the climate for tech businesses in NJ. None of the candidates responded to our repeated requests.]

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