(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."
Thanks to Republicans we are not number one already-they need to expurgate the Tea Party if they want to survive and serve the country instead of those destroyers of America who dare to claim they represent our values.
Kd, I think what DENNA is saying is that the fringe Tea Party (who spends all their time hating on gays, blacks, the poor, etc) are killing the GOP. Focus on fiscal conservatism, not turning this country into a church state.
We're already not number one in many key areas KD. For a long time too.
In a Democratic state, running against a celebrity politician, the tea party candidate got 44% of the vote. That is amazing. He closed the gap with the help of Sarah Palin.
Get used to this Republicans! This is your future. Oh, and Tea Party, your 15 minutes is up.
I like Sen. Booker, but I admit, I also like Gov. Christie. May NJ lead the way on having politicians from both parties work TOGETHER for the good of the people.
I like Sen. Booker, but I also like Gov. Christie. I hope that NJ can usher in a new era of politicians working together for the good of the people.
Democratic are destroying this country... Jersey will be no different then the city of Detroit.
It's nice to see that accomplishments mean nothing to the Democratic party, as long as you have the right intentions. Newark is still a cesspool of corruption, violence, and school failure, but so long as Booker meant to do well, that's all that matters.
Congratulations SENATOR Booker... and good luck!
I voted against Republican conservatives and I'm a registered Republican! I can see the Republican party splitting into two camps to survive.
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.
A Democrat won a state senate seat here in Florida on Tuesday evening that had NEVER been won by a Dem before. Her county/district is solidly red, so this is HUUUUUUGE!!!
One has to wonder what affect having Sarah Palin show up to stump for the Tea Party candidate had on the final results. I have no horse in this race but am glad that the TP did not pick up another extremist voice. I am stanchly independent and hope to see all politics move back to the center where we ALL can prosper, get back to work and bring the country as a whole back from teh brink.
Look at Detroit to see just how bad things can get when Democrats run things for 50 years
Right, because Detroit's problems have nothing to do with the auto industry – the economic driver of the entire state of Michigan – moving operations overseas.
Hey Kd where have you been The United States has been slipping ever since George Bush got into office, you can't just blame the Dems unless of course you get all your info. from Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck.
Actually, we've been slipping ever since raygun and his "greed is good" theology.
@Kd – The Republican's were in charge for 8 years and look where that got us...
Actually, they've owned the house and senate for most of the last 20 years, and look where that got us...
New Jersey: the garbage that New York doesn't want.
So glad Mr Booker won! See my smiling face? :-)
I remember well how it use to be when the country was under Democratic control for years.....high interest rates, unemployment, gas prices, etc.
Oh, you mean when we were coming off a decade-long war in the jungles of southeast Asia? Yeah, wars will do that to an economy.
Silvia .. our country almost did go to – – – – in a handbasket, as you say .. but not because of the Democrats in Congress, but because of your beloved party, the renegade Republicans in the House that tried to blackmail our President with the threat of closing down the Government if he did not allow them to defund the Affordable Health Care .. and then that wasn't enough .. they also would not vote to raise the debt ceiling, so our country would not go into a calamitous downward spiral into default. We almost did. I suppose you would have been happy with that.
So is Ted Cruz the only politician that was endorsed by Sarah Palin to actually make it to Washington? Republicans – how's that working for ya! LOL
Congratulations Sen. Booker. We look forward to great things from you in the future. I'm sure you'll make your state and our nation proud.
well done Sen. Booker!. (Nate, I couldn't agree more. Watch for him in 2024)
I can't get over how stupid people in this state and country are voting for this clown. His city is a complete mess and they wish to spread the mess to the U.S. Senate. You wanted him you got him.
I hope Booker sends a nice "thank you" bouquet to the Tea Party for ensuring his win over another TeaPublican lunatic.