Newark Mayor Cory Booker is leading in the polls in New Jersey's U.S. Senate Democratic primary race and is a leading topic among his foes for his decision not to attend some campaign events.
Booker bypassed Saturday night's first Democratic debate in Trenton, two days after he didn't attend a candidates' forum in Somerset County.
Opponents Rep. Frank Pallone, Rep. Rush Holt and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver all made mention of Booker's absence Saturday in addition to discussing such issues as jobs, entitlement reform, gun control and financial reform.
Holt said, "We don't know where Mr. Booker stands on breaking up the big banks . . . on stopping warrantless spying on Americans. We do know where he stands on vouchers."
Pallone said Booker showed in comments made during the last presidential election about Mitt Romney that he's "very much with Wall Street."
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported State Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver said Booker's absence is "beginning to perturb us."
Booker's campaign released a statement saying he agreed to two debates, the same number as in the last Democratic Senate primary in 2008.
Booker holds a commanding 40-point lead in the latest Quinnipiac University poll in the race to fill late Sen. Frank Lautenberg's Senate seat.
The next debate is scheduled for August 5, eight days before the primary. The general election will be held October 16.