August 13th, 2013
09:19 PM ET
1 year ago

Cory Booker becomes Democratic nominee for N.J. Senate seat

(CNN) – Newark Mayor Cory Booker will move on to New Jersey's special Senate election as the Democratic nominee after winning his party's primary on Tuesday.

He'll battle the GOP winner, former Bogota mayor Steve Lonegan, for the October 16 contest, though polls show Booker is already considered the favorite to win the seat and become the first African American elected to the Senate since Barack Obama.

(Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina is currently the only African American in the Senate, but he was appointed–not elected–to his seat.)

"Thank you. It is such an honor to be your nominee, to be your Democratic nominee for the United States Senate," Booker, who won 59% of the vote, told supporters at his victory party late Tuesday night in Newark.

Speaking with a slightly hoarse voice, Booker pledged to be "unwavering" in finding common ground in Washington if he becomes the state's next senator.

"The direction I will be most concerned with will not be right or left, it will be with going forward."

Heading into the special election, Booker has a massive fundraising advantage over his Republican opponent and a double-digit lead ahead of Lonegan, according to recent polls.

A rising star in his party, Booker handily beat out a crowded field of Democratic candidates for the nomination Tuesday–a group that included Rep. Frank Pallone, Rep. Rush Holt and General Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver.

Cory Booker joins Democratic rivals in Senate primary debate

In the Republican primary, Lonegan toppled physician Alieta Eck. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Monday at a press conference he fully anticipates endorsing the Republican nominee, no matter who wins Tuesday's contest.

While Lonegan now moves on as the GOP's pick for the seat, he trails Booker 29%-54% in a hypothetical matchup among registered voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released last week.

Lonegan won 79% of the vote in Tuesday's primary.

With more than 1.4 million followers on Twitter and Oprah Winfrey as one of his biggest supporters, Booker's appeal and frequent television appearances have reached beyond the borders of the Garden State.

In addition to voting, Booker on Tuesday greeted voters and retweeted shout-outs from celebrities on Twitter, including comedian Sarah Silverman, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, writer and actress Lena Dunham, and Ivanka Trump, daughter of real estate titan Donald Trump.

Actress Eva Longoria appeared at an event for Booker on the eve of primary day, encouraging voters to turn out for the two-term mayor.

Oprah to host fundraiser for Booker

Elected in 2006, after losing his first mayoral attempt in 2002, the Stanford grad and former football player previously served on Newark city council. Booker's resume also includes a law degree from Yale and a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford.

His critics have accused the mayor of being more interested in his celebrity status than waging a serious campaign. But Booker's high profile has helped in part with his massive fundraising haul. As of July 24, the candidate has raised $8.6 million and has $4 million in the bank, according to Federal Election Commission reports.

Newark mayor says he's not a hero after daring rescue of his neighbor

Rivals also bring up Booker's involvement in his internet start-up, Waywire. As the chairman with the largest share, Booker began promoting the struggling company last year. Critics argue the business was a distraction to his job as mayor, and they faulted him for initially opening up offices in New York City, rather than in his own town of Newark. Those offices closed down this year, according to The New York Times.

He has said publicly that if elected to the Senate, he would step down from the board of Waywire and put his shares in a blind trust. He would prohibit Waywire from lobbying his office and prohibit his staff from doing any work on the company's behalf.

"Everybody knows that Mayor Booker is excited about technology and what it can do to empower real people," campaign spokesman Kevin Griffis said in a statement. "He invested in an idea and helped get a business off the ground, and a lot of people found that idea compelling."

Watch: Mayor Cory Booker 'fires up' DNC

Christie called the special election after Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg passed away in early June. While a Republican interim senator–appointed by Christie–currently holds the seat, it has been expected a Democrat would win the special election in the largely blue state.

At the top of his victory speech Tuesday night, Booker first acknowledged Lautenberg's legacy. "He has made us safer and healthier. We are a better state and we are a better America because of Senator Frank Lautenberg."

Lautenberg's family backs Pallone, says he's not a 'showhorse'

The winner of the October 16 race will finish out Lautenberg's term through 2014, and the winner can run for a full term next year.

The nonpartisan political handicappers Stuart Rothenberg and Charlie Cook both rate next year's Senate race in New Jersey as solid or safe for Democrats.

Christie was criticized earlier this summer when he set the oddly-timed date for the special election. Rather than scheduling the special election to fall in line with the already-set gubernatorial election in November, Christie set the special for October.

Critics pointed to the extra costs to taxpayers for a separate election, but the governor stood by his decision, saying New Jersey voters deserved to have an elected official in the Senate as soon as possible.

– CNN's Jim Acosta, Kevin Liptak and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.


Filed under: Cory Booker • New Jersey • Senate • Steve Lonegan
soundoff (59 Responses)
  1. C'mon

    The governor wishes to win this election by a landslide number. If the senatorial election was held concurrently, because of party line voting, the margin of victory would not be the same. If you're intent is running for president I'm sure a landslide victory is a much better argument for your nomination

    August 14, 2013 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  2. geg

    african american ,latin american ,cuban american. european americans ,chinese americans and so on.will america ever be america

    August 14, 2013 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  3. Be Sane

    Cory Booker is a good human being. We need more like him. He holds office to actually help his city. Now the nation, after his Senate win. He will win, helping with the 2014 Democrat landslide. This nation is sick of far right Repubs who care nothing for our nation, only obstructing.
    Hillary 2016
    Booker 2024

    August 14, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  4. Sniffit

    "CNN has already anointed Booker as the next big thing!"

    Cory Booker wins Senate primary and MSM reports it: GOPers/Teatrolls whine about imaginary "liberal" bias in the MSM.

    CNN climbs up Chris Christie's backside and reports multiple stories on him a day, including unimportant fluff about his lap-belt surgery and what he said about his mommy: GOPers/Teatrolls love it and file it away to be ignored as if it never happened when CNN finally reports on a Dem.

    August 14, 2013 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  5. Wake up People!

    Why do you trolls even come here? You wax poetic about Paul, Palin and Christy but the minute there is an article about a dem, you cry like little girls. I'm sure if you went to Faux Snews, Booker would barely merit a comment.

    And the reason they talk about the man being black and what number is there haven't been very many black Senators over the years. Just in case you don't grasp the concept. What's wrong with you people that you are so afraid of a conversation about race??

    August 14, 2013 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  6. Data Driven

    Well, Eva Longoria clearly likes him.

    Just curious, though: can any residents of Newark reading this page tell us what liberal policies Booker has actually pursued there? Or how about just ANY policies, besides fiddling around with his internet start-up? Since the media doesn't report on his actual performance, perhaps you can tell us, Newarkians.

    August 14, 2013 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  7. Daniel

    "Why do you trolls even come here? You wax poetic about Paul, Palin and Christy but the minute there is an article about a dem, you cry like little girls. I'm sure if you went to Faux Snews, Booker would barely merit a comment."

    There were two winners yesterday; a Republican and a Democrat. CNN headlines the Democrat and on a side not, half way down the article gives a brief mention of the Republican. You don't see a bias, or a problem here?

    August 14, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  8. Wake up People!

    There are multiple articles on Christy, Paul and even that nitwit Palin, yet I don't hear you crying about those. Calm down. Like I said though, I'm sure if you went to Faux, Booker would hardly be mentioned.

    August 14, 2013 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  9. Fair is Fair

    Data Driven

    Well, Eva Longoria clearly likes him.

    Just curious, though: can any residents of Newark reading this page tell us what liberal policies Booker has actually pursued there? Or how about just ANY policies, besides fiddling around with his internet start-up? Since the media doesn't report on his actual performance, perhaps you can tell us, Newarkians.
    ------–
    You'll get the story about him running into a burning building. Which, in my opinion, would make him a courageous firefighter, but says zilch about his ability to effectively govern.

    August 14, 2013 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
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