August 13th, 2013
09:19 PM ET
12 months 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. Sad

    Oh yeah, Christie will do NOTHING to help Lonegan...Lonegan ran a heated race against Christie in the Republican Primaries for Governor and Christie is known to destroy all those who question or go against him. Lonegan's done.

    August 14, 2013 12:48 am at 12:48 am |
  2. Sad

    Christie and running for governor. THIS is why he put election in October rather than November. He knows that any democrat will win the seat and will cause democrats to come out in mass that in turn would affect Christies chances of winning as the voting sheep of America would vote straight down the column for democrats...against him. In his own race as governor...he would do great...but put in a senator race in a democrat state with a governor race...Christie would not win. Christies knows this and HAD to have the special election in October so it would impact him. Christie is a nasty man who only cares about his own career and NOT what is right for the state or country.

    August 14, 2013 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
  3. Sean

    There is some trouble coming Corey's way about financing and issues with his law firm continuing to pay him when the city of Newark sent that firm work. It still might be a blow out, but truthfully many demo's in Jersey are getting a little fed up by taxes and business running like hell from the state. So you might see a closer election then polls right now would indicate.

    August 14, 2013 01:16 am at 1:16 am |
  4. Robin Jones

    With Booker's brilliant Superman publicity campaign over the past two years, the outcome was never in doubt.

    August 14, 2013 01:27 am at 1:27 am |
  5. Thomas

    Good for him and good for New Jersey .

    August 14, 2013 01:47 am at 1:47 am |
  6. Tina

    What a way to go Mr. Booker!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 14, 2013 01:50 am at 1:50 am |
  7. Gwiz

    GO SUPER BOOKER GET EM First he saves his neighbor even making his bodyguard help him. he speaks like a human not a politician tried to help save a small business this man is a model democrat one of the most eloquent speakers since FDR. now with his COMMON SENSE approach to politics maybe he can help stoke the flames that are burning the repugs and propelling the dems into a 3 house democrat solution go booker u got this dems vote when u run for that nice house on pennsylvania avenue. TAKE BACK THE HOUSE DEMS 2014

    August 14, 2013 01:51 am at 1:51 am |
  8. Skarphace

    Booker vs Christie in 2016 would be the very difficult choice that I would like very much to have to make.

    August 14, 2013 01:52 am at 1:52 am |
  9. Jessica

    Go Cory!

    August 14, 2013 02:26 am at 2:26 am |
  10. CP in Tampa, FL

    Congratulations on your win Cory Booker. You will make a great senator. We need rising stars such as Cory Booker to fill national Democratic positions in the future. Maybe he can run for president after President Hilary Clinton leaves office in 2024.

    August 14, 2013 02:30 am at 2:30 am |
  11. Marie MD

    Congratulations and continue the fight and growth of your career.

    August 14, 2013 06:25 am at 6:25 am |
  12. BanGuns2013

    Our next president

    August 14, 2013 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  13. Jerry

    Another Obama clone. América is really is really in trouble!

    August 14, 2013 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  14. Matty C

    Senator Cory Booker. Get used to hearing those words folks!

    August 14, 2013 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  15. Mike

    The election will be a cakewalk for Booker. Lonegan is an idiot.

    August 14, 2013 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  16. Alan

    Awesome....this guy is the real deal. We need more like him..congratulations...this guy will be President one day.

    August 14, 2013 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  17. John

    If you knew Jersey like I knew Jersey.

    August 14, 2013 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  18. EastCoast Mike

    This could be our next president after Hillary.

    August 14, 2013 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  19. Wake up People!

    Congratulations Mayor Booker, but I must reiterate. Watch your back, front and sides. Be constantly on guard.
    Good luck.

    August 14, 2013 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  20. Bryan Reed

    So, every time an African American wins we have to be reminded they are African American and what number they are goingbinto the senate?

    August 14, 2013 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  21. DBL STD

    He is Obama 7 yrs ago. A celebrity politician who is never in town. A good orator. A star because he fits the "profile". Beware!

    August 14, 2013 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  22. Joe Nobody

    Its New Jersey, who cares?

    August 14, 2013 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  23. J

    Booker is just another Obama mouthpiece. Not what America needs just like Obama.

    August 14, 2013 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  24. cmml

    CNN has already anointed Booker as the next big thing! It's embarrassing how far the press will go to assure 'their' candidate gets elected!

    August 14, 2013 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  25. DBL STD

    @SAD, I don’t agree with you assessment that Booker would necessarily cause Christie to lose the Governor’s race. He may making closer. However, why else would Booker have bowed out from running for governor, as the Democrats asked him to months ago, if he did not believe he could beat Christie.

    August 14, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
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