WASHINGTON – Newark's mayoral race has been marked by a series of confrontations between two candidates with no love lost between them, and now Justice Department officials are being sent to New Jersey's largest city to make sure the criticism doesn't turn into corruption.
Observers will make sure that Tuesday's election day is not marred by voter intimidation, ballot stuffing or other problems associated with election tampering.
The city has no history of such activity, but U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Christopher J. Christie said he ordered the operation to make sure supporters of Mayor Sharpe James and Councilman Cory Booker don't hash out their grievances illegally.
The move to have election monitors is not unusual and is guaranteed by U.S. law. U.S. marshals will drive the 100 lawyers, investigators and other U.S. attorney's office staff to the more than 100 polling places, but marshals will leave them at the door, Christie said.
Any irregularities will be reported to a command center led by a ranking assistant U.S. attorney, Michael A. Chagares, who will then confer with Christie and the state attorney general's office on what, if any, steps are to be taken, Christie said.
If irregularities are reported, marshals may be sent by court order into the polling places to secure or seize election records or machines.
Both campaigns are happy with the move, and helped identify about three dozen polling places that are ripe for observation, Christie said.
In addition to the federal presence, the normal election complement of some 15 state troopers and 10 state deputy attorneys general will be in Newark, said Lee Moore, a spokesman for state Attorney General David Samson.
"It really isn't going to be any different than we've done in years past," Moore said. "But we'll be prepared if additional resources are needed."
James, 66, is seeking an unprecedented fifth four-year term. He is an educator who was a councilman for 16 years before becoming mayor in 1986.
Booker, 33, an Ivy League-trained lawyer raised in a northern New Jersey suburb, moved to the city of 274,000 in 1997 and defeated an incumbent to win a council seat the next year.
Both men are Democrats and have matched fundraising skills nearly dollar for dollar. James has the support of most state Democratic leaders, including Gov. James McGreevey, but Booker has capitalized on his campaign chest and has criticized James' lack of achievements.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.