October 16th, 2013
09:52 PM ET
12 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. Anonymous

    Uh, we're the farthest thing from number 1 you know...

    October 16, 2013 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  2. Guy

    Good. Good man, I hope he becomes the President some day.

    October 16, 2013 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  3. mrsmass

    Denna, of course Booker wins. NJ is a blue state. No shocker there.

    October 16, 2013 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  4. John

    @DENNA You do realize that Booker essentially filled the seat for a former Senate Democrat, and NJ is mostly a Democratic state? This is not an "upwards" trend for the Democrats if that's what you were hoping for, but simply the continuity of the status quo.

    October 16, 2013 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  5. ANNIER

    @KD your boo m0r0n w got us into this debacle. The shenanigans of the American taliban, the Tea-party, is only the START of this trend!

    Congratulations, Cory Booker!

    October 16, 2013 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  6. t

    we had the dem on both sides that how we got Obama care

    October 16, 2013 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  7. just sayin'

    I beg to differ. We will actually be the United states again! Wipe the TP out!

    October 16, 2013 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  8. nintex

    Chalk up one for the influence of Sarah Palin . . . oh, wait. Her candidate lost.

    October 16, 2013 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  9. hooray

    good!! i was rooting for this guy. he seems like a solid human.

    October 16, 2013 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  10. betty

    To the republicans, maybe you should just get used to things like this.

    October 16, 2013 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  11. mfvjr

    I could have voted otherwise had it not been for the campaign appearance of Alaskan quitter. But nevertheless let's move on and forward. Congratulations.

    October 16, 2013 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  12. MikeinNM

    Let's judge legislators on the content of their proposals rather than the party tag after their names.

    October 16, 2013 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  13. jowl

    Be wary of Booker. He's got a secret.

    October 16, 2013 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  14. reply

    Congrats to Booker. The other African-American in the Senate is from the GOP. Denna, don't think this will be a trend.

    October 16, 2013 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  15. BDR

    kd
    What exactly are we #1 at now?

    October 16, 2013 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  16. reasonablebe

    congrats to Mr. Booher, and kidos to NJ voters on a good choice.

    October 16, 2013 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  17. tensionfilter

    You will never, ever, earn my trust Corey. Didn't vote for you and never ever will. Years of seeing my tax money get flushed down in Newark back me up in why I should not trust you.

    October 16, 2013 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  18. R

    Cory you will never earn my trust. What's goingon with corruption charges filed against you? You will be taken out of office soon. See ya!

    October 16, 2013 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  19. Mike

    @KD, we were never number 1, well maybe in the early 1900's when we were inventing and innovating. Now it is just a pipe dream. And guess what? We have the GOP to thank. If anything, having democratic leadership will at least get us closer to again being "number 1", whatever that means

    October 16, 2013 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  20. Bman

    "Who wanted that job anyway?" a fitting epitath to the old guard. Sayunara

    October 16, 2013 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  21. John Dolan

    Just what we need another empty suit in congress. This guy did nothing for Newark and now he will do nothing for the entire state. I hope the GOP puts up a real candidate in 2014 and not the partial loser Lonegan.

    October 17, 2013 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  22. t3chn0ph0b3

    This is a nice little preview of 2014.

    October 17, 2013 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  23. anonymous

    When humans begin being wise and civil and human then being a "Democrat" or "Republican" will no longer matter.

    October 17, 2013 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  24. R

    Cory you will never earn my trust because you are a Democrat!

    October 17, 2013 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  25. LarryH

    Hah! Chris Christie was outsmarted by his own party! So much for election rigging (and wasting the taxpayers' money by adding a special election 3 weeks before the regular election.)

    October 17, 2013 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
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