October 16th, 2013
09:52 PM ET
11 months ago

Booker wins special Senate election in N.J.

(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.


"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."


Filed under: Cory Booker • New Jersey • Senate • special election
soundoff (358 Responses)
  1. Jimmy

    Great instead of a right wing radical we have a left wing radical.
    Wake up America! why do you think this country is so polarized?
    The TEA party only exists because of these left wing idealogs

    October 17, 2013 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  2. It's All Lies

    Really tired of politicians focusing on those "without a voice"...Most of "those" people CHOOSE not to have a voice by shunning education, bucking authority and then coming to those who have done the right thing expecting a handout. A hand up is one thing, but the systematic use of entitlement programs as a way of life must be ended – and then "those" people will be forced to join the rest of us in working hard...

    October 17, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  3. mco

    An empty suit headed to a town full of empty suits. Seems appropriate to me. Newark won't miss him.

    October 17, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  4. Leigh

    NJians want no part of teaparty anarchy, thanks. Christie, Republican though he is, is not a teaparty nut. He may have supported Lonegan out of necessity, but there is no love lost between the two, never was.

    October 17, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  5. jerseygirl

    IIt's a good thing Lonegan lost since he apparently has NO clue what the average New Jerseyan is all about. If he did, he would never have let Sarah Palin speak his name, much less campaign for him. He nailed is own coffin with that act alone. What an idiot. He apparently didn't learn anything from his mentor, Governor Christie, who has the sense to keep Palin, etc., at arm's length.

    October 17, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  6. skarphace

    FrankA: Another democratic member of the congress of the soon to be Peoples Socialist Democratic Republic of the United States.

    If that is all it takes to rid ourselves of the obstructionist Tea Party who are trying desperately to destroy our economy, then I am all for it.

    October 17, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  7. skarphace

    Booker: "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."

    I really hope that man, Cory Booker, runs for POTUS one day.

    October 17, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  8. Carol

    Congratulations Cory Booker! You work for more than New Jersey, you'll be working for the whole United States. Kick the extremists!

    October 17, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  9. Jason

    THE TP thought they had won

    October 17, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  10. DH

    Thank you, Sarah Palin.

    October 17, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  11. Griff-Griff

    Let's see...Hmmm... The last black man elected to the Senate was Ivy League educated, and a young up-and-coming star in the Democratic party, and wound up becoming POTUS. To boot, Senator Booker is a Rhodes Scholar, who was without question BORN IN THE USA!!! This spells nothing but troubles for the Repubs and the Tea Party. After Hillary's 8-yr term, he should be ready to take the job. Does the term LANDSLIDE ring a bell to the Republicans? It should!!! This is your future that you carved out for yourselves. The message is clear; Either change your tune or you won't be able to sing the song with the rest of the choir.

    October 17, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  12. liberal disease

    this guy thinks he is going to change washington, now where have we heard that before?

    October 17, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  13. InterStellar space

    Booker works "for all of New Jersey" which is why he campaigned 99% in the inner cities and almost never in the suburbs.

    Yeah, right.

    October 17, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  14. liberal disease

    now that this phony is gone maybe its will be safe to go to newark

    October 17, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  15. Jojola

    Congrats, Cory! I hear he pulled it off with a budget of one million dollars. That's meager, considering Bloomberg spent that on just one day of campaigning. Way to stretch the American dollar. How's that for being fiscally responsible.

    October 17, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  16. Mark

    I think the circus that was the House this pastweek and also Palin campaigning for him totally sank any chances he might have had. The American people are actually seeing what the effects of irrational thinking can do and I think they want no part of it.

    October 17, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  17. kalo

    Hate his views or whatever but you have to respect a man that will go into a house on fire, save someone, then go and shovel people's driveways if they can't get out. Hate the politics but one does have to admit he is a pretty good guy.

    October 17, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  18. Bill

    looks like NJ voters are sending signal to Washington as to how they feel about how business is conducted in DC and who is to blame.

    October 17, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  19. Danny

    There it goes to show that America is shunning the Tea Party and the Republicans with their "We don't care about you, we just care about us" antics. As long as they are in denial they will keep losing. Their ideology was left 100 years ago and as time progresses no one cares about their "values" anymore. America is no longer white conservative, it has become very diverse and will keep getting more diverse. Republicans will eventually become extinct, they keep holding on but they are losing

    October 17, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  20. me

    As expected the better candidate won, now let's see how he performs. Thanks to Sarah Palin for assuring us that another right wingnut did not get elected... funny how the moron right continues to think they have a grasp on reality (as evidenced by some of the other comments here)... they are like school children who continue to scream and yell believing that even though doing so hasn't worked so far, if they continue it will... shocking that as an adult a person could be that stupid...

    October 17, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  21. Loggan44

    I think many of the folks go to Washington, once elected, with the hopes they will be the one to change the country. Unfortunately, once they arrive and get involved in the political game they realize the truth of the matter about how politics works.

    October 17, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  22. Solitairedog

    Congratulations, Senator Booker. I am thrilled that NJ can tell the difference between an intelligent, kind, strong individual versus a nutbagger. I am heartened, indeed. Way to go, NJ!

    October 17, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  23. bczu

    Lonegan was asked about the pollution in one of NJ's rivers. He blamed Booker, he said the dead bodies from murders in Newark are to blame. He also said, after he lost, that he didnt even want the job anyway. This is the tea party, folks!

    October 17, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  24. Ellinj

    Phew! Was sweating a tea party nut getting in. I think Booker was definitely the better, more level-headed candidate. The debate between Booker and Lonegan scared me enough to make sure I definitely got out and voted yesterday and encouraged everyone I spoke to to do the same!

    October 17, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  25. Organic1

    Booker is one of those great guys to have in politics , I hope he doesn't wear out before he gets to make a difference. This fellow has brains and energy to use there. Best of Luck!

    October 17, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
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