Cory Booker wins special Senate election in New Jersey
By Paul Steinhauser and Conor Finnegan
CNN News Wire | 10/24/2013, midnight
Cory Booker is heading to Washington.
The 44-year-old two-term Democratic mayor of Newark, N.J. defeated his Republican opponent, Steve Lonegan, Oct. 16 in a special U.S. Senate election.
Booker’s election makes him the only African American in the Senate currently and the sixth to ever serve in the body. He is the first elected since President Barack Obama left for the White House in 2004. The others were elected from Mississippi (Hiram Revels and Blanche K. Bruce); Massachusetts (Edward Brooke); Illinois (Carol Mosley Braun); and Illinois (Barack Obama). Roland Burris was appointed to fill the Illinois seat vacated when Obama was elected president.
“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.
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 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 Oct. 15 from Obama, who urged New Jersey voters to turn out for the Democratic candidate. On Oct. 13, 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.