(CNN) - Cory Booker is heading to Washington.
The 44-year-old two-term Democratic mayor of Newark, New Jersey defeated his Republican opponent, Steve Lonegan, Wednesday in a special U.S. Senate election.
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"I'm going down to make the Senate more accessible to all of us. I will bring more voice to the voices too often ignored in our state. I will be dogged and determined, relentless and unfaltering in my sense of service for all of New Jersey," said Booker from a victory rally at his election headquarters in Newark.
"If you voted for me, I will make you proud. If you didn't vote for me, I will work every single day to earn your trust. Remember this always: I work for all of New Jersey."
About 35 miles away in Bridgewater, New Jersey, Lonegan, a businessman and the former mayor of the northern New Jersey town of Bogota, conceded.
"Moments ago I called Senator Booker to congratulate him in his win and as we should, wish him the best in serving the people of the State and the people of this country," said Lonegan to a crowd of defiant supporters, announcing he would return to the private sector.
"I said to myself, who wants that job anyway?" he joked later.
With 99% of precincts reporting, Booker led Lonegan 55%-44%.
Booker was the front runner in all the public opinion polls throughout the short campaign to fill the remaining 15 months of the term of the late Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died in June. With his victory, Booker becomes the first African-American elected to the U.S. Senate since Barack Obama in 2004.
During the campaign, Booker characterized Lonegan as a far-right, tea party conservative who was too far out of the mainstream for Garden State voters. And Lonegan criticized Booker for what the Republican described as his celebrity status, adding that the nationally recognized Booker is a "Hollywood stand-in" for President Barack Obama.
In the past couple of weeks, the race became a proxy fight over the partial government shutdown, the standoff over raising the nation's debt ceiling, and the bitter partisan divide over the national health care law.
Low turnout was expected for a contest held on a Wednesday, and that came less than three weeks before the state holds a gubernatorial election.
To help bring Democrats to the polls, Booker's campaign released a video message Monday from Obama, who urged New Jersey voters to turn out for the Democratic candidate. And Saturday, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a favorite among grassroots conservatives, campaigned with Lonegan at a high profile event organized by a national tea party group.
Soon after Lautenberg's death, GOP Gov. Chris Christie, who's up for re-election in November, named fellow Republican and state Attorney General Jeff Chiesa to temporarily fill the Senate seat. That move reduced the Democratic Party's control of the Senate to 54-46. Booker's victory brings the Democrats' majority back to 55-45.
While there were two major candidates in the race, it's Booker, considered a rising star in the Democratic Party, who got the lion’s share of attention.
He made national headlines for rescuing a neighbor from a fire and for helping his city dig out from a major snowstorm. But his status also opened him to attacks by his critics that he spends far too much time outside of Newark, and that he hasn't done enough to stem the city's rising murder rate.
Booker can boast of having nearly 1.5 million Twitter followers. But a recent Twitter exchange with a stripper did briefly make headlines.
And questions about Booker's sexuality arose after he told the Washington Post earlier this year that he didn't care if supporters thought he was gay.
"It's something that's almost fatiguing at this point," Booker told CNN's Jason Carroll earlier this week. "At the end of the day, I just believe we should be electing people on the content of their character, on the quality of their ideals, their dedication to their cause, not on who they're dating."
What a great day for election! The GOP screws the public and Cory Booker wins over a Republican. I hope this becomes a trend. The GOP needs a good scare to move them back to the center. If they don't, the Tea Party will destroy them.
Yea just put all democrats on both sides and see what happens. We will no longer be number one. The united states will no longer be .
Please its jersey that state is the just as blue as NY the fact that a TEA PARTY member who is against abortion gay marriage and he also said he would let the government default tried to run in a state that hasnt repub controlled i think ever is why we need tea baggers labeled as terrorists like al queda or al shabaab
Palin's a Failin"',,,,, so start with the drama,,,,, it's never their fault,,,,,,so they'll just lblame Obama.
@ Kd – Yea just put all democrats on both sides and see what happens. We will no longer be number one. The united states will no longer be .
Oh my goodness. You GOP/Tea Party types are such drama queens. Unless you are a 1%er, the Democrats are your friend. I may not agree with everything they do, but I feel a lot safer with them than the GOP/Tea Party. We have yet to produce a nut job like Sarah Palin in the Democratic party.
Thanks be to God!!!! We didn't need a TP whacko in the Senate...Now it is time to purge these bozos..
Good job. Hopefully more Democrats will win in 2014.
What's wrong with being number two? As Three Dog Night said One is the loneliest number...
Ha, Ha, This is the beginning of the end of the Tea Partiers.
I guess Palin couldn't save this one. Looking forward to Republican house-cleaning in 2014. I vote.
Kd the only thing the USA is number one is incarcerated citizens.
GOP lost normal republicans... they got army of crazy tea baggers
Look at Detroit to see just how bad things can get when Democrats run things for 50 years
Glad to hear Cory won,we have enough crazy inbred tea baggers already!
If Lonegan was the best that the GOP had to offer the party is in deeper trouble than they will ever understands. Anyone that thinks Palin was going to help you get elected is totally out of touch .
Good. Congratulations, Senator Booker. May you serve your/our country well.
Cory Booker will do a great job
The trouble with our country is that a small group of loud mouths have corrupted the system. Lets get the tea sum out of office. As John Vance Garner once said the tea party aint worth a bucket of spit.
I knew this race was over when Steve Lonegan brought in Sarah Palin to speak in his campaign.
That was a slam dunk....Booker is a very level headed popular guy, that even lived on food stamps to prove a point. Both he and Christie and very good nonpartisan politicians for that state. he will be an exceptional Senator.
So really all one has to do to get elected is to give inspirational speeches, tell people 'Yes they can', get elected, do nothing you said you were going to do-got it!
Another message to GOP.
Agreed. Looks like we [all I of us] are going down the wrong path. The 47 % is growing but what happens when they continue to want more.
Great victory and a CLEAR upgrade. Steve Lonegan was worthless.
The trick will be to get re-elected. Live up to your promises Cory – we're counting on you to make a difference!