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(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.
Let the Koch Brother attack Ad's begin!
This isn't a huge surprise, but we need to see some results when Booker wins.
Congratulations Mr. Booker, all the best in the special election. He seems like a good man and some who would represent his constituents well.
Other members of the circus not mentioned, Mark Zuckerberg CEO of Facebook and Snooki is a no-show again.
Corey booker another Obama wannabe. Having one Obama is bad enough .
He promises to fully support Obama's policy. He requires no brain.
He did a so so job with Newark. Good luck to him
Thank you Mr. Booker
This is a guy who's a true hero, chasing down armed robbers, running into burning buildings and saving people, delivering diapers to a mom who couldn't get through hurricane sandy to get diapers for her kids, and even opened up his home to hurricane sandy victims to go into his home and just hang out, and even going on a food stamp diet so he would understand how people in poverty live. Are you kidding me? NO ONE deserves to be in power more than a person who's so Christ-like! No one...
Ok Cory, let's go ahead and do this landslide against your Tea-baggin' opponent because NJ has an intelligent electorate as opposed to most of the tea-foo-leo's who have IQ's at or near room temperature (i.e. 70 – 80). The Tea Tards will soon out lfade off the scene and finish out their days in a nursing home somewhere...Thank goodness...Most of us are sick of their foolish cantankerous idiocy.
Voted for Pallone. Still, Booker is a much more "sane" vote in November than Lonegan, who is way to radical for my taste.
Wow! Headline = "Cory Booker becomes Democratic Nominee for NJ Senate Seat"
The Republican winner isn't even mentioned until about half way down the page. And they say there's no liberal media...
Sheesh...at least you're not trying to hide it anymore CNN!
Congratulations to Cory Booker. He's your next US senator of New Jeresy, and he's a huge rising star for the democratic party. Possible president in 2024? We'll see.
Why the picture of Booker hugging Obama? How can Booker lose with Oprah on his side? OK, maybe if she gets distracted by a $38,000 crocodile purse and doesn't hold enough fundraisers for him. A Sarah Silverman endorsement? That's a positive? Money may not buy you love but it (apparently) can buy you a senate seat in New Jersey.
But will he tow the party line?
Good for him, Booker sounds like a promising option. Well, until he becomes corrupted.
Yet another state destroyed by so many. I remember how nice NJ was .. until...
"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."
It's always about race with the left...
Who cares that he's the first black senator since Barack Obama. Who cares that he's black?! Just stop talking about it..
Congratualtions, New Jersey Democratic voters,you have ONCE AGAIN voted for a candidate with charisma instead of one with a meaningful record. Rep Holt has been fighting the NSA and secretive surveillance for years, and he's doing a heck of a job leading Congressional efforts against them right now, now that other people care about those issues. But you just HAD to have another hip, young, cool candidate in office. This is one of the reasons I'm an Independent liberal instead of a Democrat: Democratic voters simply do not learn when this gets pulled over on them, and the Democratic party knows it and banks on it.::ironic applause::
who cares, just another liberal to lead the other fools.
very very good and good new.
I'm curious how Booker gets the headline on both the front page and at the top of the article. Didn't Lonegan win the Republican primary? Sure, you can find that out if you read the article, but name recognition is everything in politics and blasting Booker's name at the top gives him a big leg up.
Not that CNN has an agenda or anything.
(By the way, I like Booker and would probably vote for him if I lived in NJ. I just don't like to see the partisanship the media engages in.)
Booker is only in this for his ego and stardom power. He would be better as an actor in Hollywood than a Senator in DC.