(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."
Uh, we're the farthest thing from number 1 you know...
Good. Good man, I hope he becomes the President some day.
Denna, of course Booker wins. NJ is a blue state. No shocker there.
@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.
@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!
we had the dem on both sides that how we got Obama care
I beg to differ. We will actually be the United states again! Wipe the TP out!
Chalk up one for the influence of Sarah Palin . . . oh, wait. Her candidate lost.
good!! i was rooting for this guy. he seems like a solid human.
To the republicans, maybe you should just get used to things like this.
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.
Let's judge legislators on the content of their proposals rather than the party tag after their names.
Be wary of Booker. He's got a secret.
Congrats to Booker. The other African-American in the Senate is from the GOP. Denna, don't think this will be a trend.
What exactly are we #1 at now?
congrats to Mr. Booher, and kidos to NJ voters on a good choice.
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.
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!
@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
"Who wanted that job anyway?" a fitting epitath to the old guard. Sayunara
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.
This is a nice little preview of 2014.
When humans begin being wise and civil and human then being a "Democrat" or "Republican" will no longer matter.
Cory you will never earn my trust because you are a Democrat!
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.)