(CNN) – Cory Booker hitting back at his GOP rival for U.S. Senate, calling Steve Lonegan's remarks about his sexuality "sad" and "bigoted."
The dust-up began when Booker told the Washington Post he isn't bothered about speculation he's gay. That assertion, Lonegan declared in an interview with a conservative online publication, was "weird."
"I personally like being a guy," Lonegan told Newsmax.
Speaking with HuffPost Live on Wednesday, Booker – the Democratic mayor of Newark, New Jersey – said that sentiment amounted to a prejudiced view of gay men.
"I mean that's just sad," Booker said. "Honestly that's just really sad. And it's just disheartening to hear somebody in this day and age in the United States of America … say basically - implicate that gay men are not men. That they're not guys."
"That kind of callous, bigoted disrespect to gays and lesbians just shouldn't be tolerated," he added.
Lonegan had also taken aim at Booker's admitted late night manicures and pedicures, calling the practice a "fetish" and claiming his own indulgence was "a good Scotch and a cigar."
"That's my fetish but we'll just compare the two," Lonegan said.
But Booker argued his rival had adopted a misguided view of masculinity.
"The thought that what defines manhood is the drink that you drink or cigar that you smoke, I think that he just really misses the boat on what it means to be a man in America," he said.
Polling in the contest indicates Booker is the heavy favorite to win the October 16 special election. According to a Fairleigh Dickinson University survey released Thursday, Booker held a 50%-22% lead over Lonegan among registered voters. The winner will serve the remainder of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg's term.
CNN's Kevin Liptak and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.