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Days Before Election, Booker, Democratic Heavyweights Attack Tea Party

WOOD-RIDGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- A hoarse, fired-up Newark Mayor Cory Booker continued a bus tour of the state as the special U.S. Senate election approaches.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez joined Booker on Sunday.

As WCBS 880's Jim Smith reported, Booker told a crowd at the annual Bergen and Passaic Counties Hispanic Rally that New Jersey voters have a special opportunity by voting during the government shutdown.

"We're the only election for the United States Congress that is happening during this shutdown," he said.

Days Before Election, Booker, Democratic Heavyweights Attack Tea Party

Booker said New Jersey voters can "endorse the tea party and their shutdown politics" or say, "No, not here in New Jersey, not in this nation."

Wasserman-Schultz said voters should help make sure the tea party is "squelched."

"We are apparently, not any closer, to reopening the government," she said.

Booker will face Republican Steve Lonegan on Wednesday in a special election to replace Frank Lautenberg, who died in June. Booker has a double-digit lead over Lonegan in the polls.

Lonegan told The Associated Press after an event Sunday that his campaign isn't a long shot, and he expects to win Wednesday. The former Bogota mayor also said he stands by his decision to fire Rick Shaftan, a high-ranking adviser who bashed Booker in a profane interview and questioned his sexuality.

Shaftan told the website Talking Points Memo that Booker's tweets responding to an Oregon stripper were "like what a gay guy would say to a stripper" and that he should have been more salacious and complimented her breasts.

"To me, if I was single and you know like some stripper was tweeting me, I might take advantage of the perks of the office," Shaftan was quoted as saying.

Lonegan said Shaftan did something "stupid," and "when people do stupid things, you fire them."

Lonegan said he'd end the government shutdown by having President Barack Obama delay the health care law.

Although the Tea Party Express held a rally for him Saturday, Lonegan said he's just the Republican candidate and that the tea party isn't a party but is "just a movement."

Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin of Alaska headlined the rally in New Egypt, telling a crowd that the "eyes of America" are on the state."

"You have the momentum with Steve's campaign," Palin said. "The rest of the country knows."

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