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mikolay headshot 2011 120With the day of the Primary Election now at hand, Democrats and Republicans throughout New Jersey have found themselves tasked with choosing their torchbearer, a candidate who they believe can carry their message through to October and emerge victorious at the polls. It is a rare opportunity, one that typically only comes around every six years, but with the high-stakes gubernatorial race underway and the implementation of Obamacare at the national level nearing ever closer, both sides view securing the late Senator Lautenberg’s seat to be of the utmost importance.

For the Democrats, the popular pick seems to be Cory Booker, the ever-charismatic and charming Mayor of Newark. A media superstar, Booker already has an astonishing monetary arsenal at his disposable; celebrity fundraisers, over a million Twitter followers, and a bevy of positive headlines have made him a force to be reckoned with. Frank Pallone, the environmentalist Congressman who has represented the Sixth District for almost two decades, has put his own financial resources to good use, airing a series of heavily circulated television ads and has climbed to second place in the polls.

Representative Rush Holt, a physicist and the Democratic Party’s lone champion of civil liberties, has had a difficult time staking out a base of support. Frequent calls for single-payer universal healthcare and the end of the Patriot Act may have been too much for some to handle; however, he has remained unapologetic in his support for individual privacy. And finally, there is Sheila Oliver, the polarizing progressive Assembly Speaker whose perplexing candidacy will almost certainly come to an end this evening.

While most media attention has focused on this crowded field of Democrats, the Republicans are not without their own contested primary. Indeed, while the press seems to believe that Steve Lonegan, the former Mayor of Bogota and one-time Americans for Prosperity spokesperson, is guaranteed the nomination, there is another contender; Tea Party-backed physician Alieta Eck has spent the last two months amassing a sizable following within the Garden State.

“My message is one of optimism that we can all [Republicans] rally behind,” Dr. Eck said on the eve of the primary. “We all want the same things. Lower taxes, smarter government, repeal ObamaCare. I have real solutions that ought to attract good Republicans.”

Both Republican candidates have made opposition to Obamacare cornerstones of their candidacies. “The uninsured need to be able to buy the coverage they want, with the deductible they want, from the state they want,” said Dr. Eck. “There should be many options and it should not be mandated. The very poor can access care via the free clinic system I would champion.”

Of course, Mayor Lonegan has a substantial lead. With high name recognition, extensive contacts, and experience as a campaigner, the Lonegan campaign seems optimistic about its chances, so much so that the candidate himself has declared, with near-certainty, that he will win this October. Whatever the case, low voter turnout and stormy weather conditions could provide an upset on either side—it is not impossible that Eck or Pallone would win their respective nominations—something that would undoubtedly shock the establishment and go down in history books. In the interim, all the Garden State’s voters can do is cast their ballots and wait with bated breath.