(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."
congratulations cory Not! as if its a shock a dem wins in nj
Just what the Senate needs, another Democrat. NOT!!! The Republicans just took a huge bashing by the Dems, but the Dems are the party that WOULD NOT give an inch. From the White House to the Senate floor, there was no give. It was the Dems' way or no way. Bipartisanship my Aunt Fanny! This needs to stop, or the USA will no longer exist!!!!
Congratulations to Booker. He fought the good fight. He won fair and square. May he live long and prosper. It's about time.
Anybody want to get in the pool of when this guy will be indicted?
Its fitting to have a low-life represent the most awful part of the US. Its a little sad, since it appears that the US is in the toilet, but fitting. Just like it is fitting to have such a turd as Obama leading us down the toilet. Thanks voters for thinking mostly of yourselves and what's in it for you, instead of the long term health of our nation.
It is sad to see that for most Americans, the elections are a game to them. In reality, it is not about what party but about what values you hold. It would also help if people would stop and think about the future and stop worrying about the now. If we keep giving handouts today, how are we going to sustain growth for tomorrow?
I agree with Denna.....the GOP has moved much too far to the right, actively encouraging ignorance and blatant misinformation. "Death panels," birth certificates, "put down your Quran," waving the Confederate flag...adolescent behavior. Moderate Republicans need to regain control, or the GOP will become the Whig party of the 21st century.
Well lets see how long it takes for this lib to commit a crime and not get punished for it.
NJ has elected someone who has a track record of doing nothing and cannot do anything. This makes me more determined to support my Republican party. The welfare state that is now NJ will reap the consequences of electing this individual, I hope you guys get all you deserve from him
5 Years and he is being indicted for graft and other political corruption
All our government does is divide and conquer us. While we are divided as a nation of 'who's right and who's wrong', there are politicians and people with money robbing us blind.
It's OKAY, soon Canada will be the North American powerhouse. While America is looking to further bankrupt itself by expanding its federal debt and deficit, Canada's parliament can afford to talk about things like roaming cell phone fees and television channel package bundling.
America's ghettos are really killing the country.
Man I sure am gonna miss him
Another moderate, constructive NE pol, how 'bout that? How's that snippy ankle-biting thing working for you, Sarah?
Take your meds, Kd.
The Palin Kiss of Death
Booker is very pragmatic and smart – NJ made a good choice!
Good for Cory Booker and good for the American people.
@KD....well then get some Republicans that can actually do something and vote them in....quit whining about Democrats and fix the Republicans....
@Kd Did you just wake up? What exactly are we number 1 at besides income inequality and military? You are living in a delusion.
Once again, we see the Palin Effect, which is the exact opposite of the Golden Touch. The Tea Party must really feel like America hates them and for the most part, for once, they'd be correct about something.
She speaks the truth. Examine what she said!
New Jersey is historically Democrat, so Booker beating a Republican was the expected result regardless of current events.
Congratulations Senator Booker, well done sir. From Tampa FL
Of course Kd....Republicans have always had the best interests of the country at heart... I mean look at the good you did during the civil war. Really happy you guys were there. The question I have other than Eisenhower, what have you done of significance and benefit since then? Did you work to make a 40 hour work week the standard? Did you improve working conditions in industry? What exactly can you take credit for these days besides being an enormous pain in our collective rear ends?
@ Denna, It is a trend the only reason they ended the shutdown was because of this, a hint of what will happen in 2014
we the people are tired of these right wing mad bats telling us stop spending. ? where was these bats when Bush f-up this country and its credit. you have to spend money to make money, this country if falling apart at the seems we need schools, bridges, highways repaired. create the jobs . Stop the crap with were leaving this for our kids or these the same kids you don't want to have a head-start program, the same kids that want have the free lunch program, the same kid that can't get a good college loan... Wake up get these clowns out of office.