(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."
Just what we need - another liberal in an elected office.
This country is going to hell in a handbasket.
Ah Kd...news flash! We're NOT number one in anything good anymore! Prove me wrong.
Good let the domestic tea party terrorist GOP fall one by one.....:) :)
I wonder how many people turned out to vote for Booker just because Sarah Palin jumped on a soapbox to support Lonegan?
Kd – the US stopped being "number one" on January 20, 2001.
That's the spirit, kd! Gloom and doom, can't get too much of that!
It is a great day in New Jersey politics. Congratulations, SENATOR Booker. I have followed your career ever since I left New Jersey and now live in Kentucky. You are a true asset to the State of New Jersey. Again, Congrats. Kick some butt.
Kd-What exactly are you attempting to say? That a Democratic majority in both houses of congress will spell our doom? Odd that it didn't occur during all those years when that was the case previously.
Cory Booker is the man!!! All of New Jersey should be proud of him and wish him the best of luck in his new position. I'll be looking forward to his floor speeches which will bring a fresh face and a younger face to the Senate, as well as a minority face, something this elected body has far too few of.
Kd, with the alternative being the TP's stated and temporarily accomplished goal of shutting down the government, I would rather there be a government.
Democrats always eventually run out of other peoples money.
Congratulations! Ted Cruz meet your worst nightmare in the Senate. Only God helped to make a move like this!
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 .
Because we did so well with two wars, a swelling deficit and the worst recession since the Great Depression under Republican leadership, if you can call it that. Some people will never get it.
Good for him. I hope New Jersey keeps him next election. He seems like a good man. Hard to find these days in politics.
Thats cool . He was a good mayor.
Congrats in order for Booker!!
Thanks New Jersey, well done. Glad to see that the Tea-Party-backed candidate that Palin supported never stood a chance.
Congratulations Senator Booker, you deserve this victory.
People voting this fool in proves how stupid we really are
Hey Denna... Move to Detroit, all democrats there.
Sounds like a set up for the 2016kids presidential election.
KD Last time the dems controlled the senate and the house we got ObamaCare..
Chris Christie also endorsed Steve Lonegan. But why inform CNN's readers? Because its more fun for CNN to bash Sarah Palin. Over 57% of Palin's endorsements won, Martha Zoller, Sarah Steelman, Sandy Adams,Orrin Hatch, Deb Fischer, Richard Mourdock, Kelly Eyotte,Rebecca Kleefisch, Scott Walker, All winners. But hey, why let the facts get in the way of Bashing Sarah Palin.
We aren't number on in anything now Kd. We haven't been since Reagan was in office.
A simple case of the better and more qualified man winning the election...kudos to NJ.