New Jersey voters elect Democrat Cory Booker to U.S. Senate
By Victoria Cavaliere, ReutersNEWARK, New Jersey - Democrat Cory Booker, the charismatic mayor of Newark, was the unofficial winner of a New Jersey special election on Wednesday, handily defeating a conservative Republican to fill the state's vacant U.S. Senate seat.
October 17, 2013, 2:07 pm TWN
Booker, who had been heavily favored in polls, defeated conservative Republican Steve Lonegan, a former small-town mayor, according to tallies published online by The New York Times, Politico and the Star-Ledger newspaper.
The tallies showed Booker with an 11 point lead over Lonegan with more than 90 percent of the votes counted.
Booker, 44, spoke to cheering supporters in Newark where he thanked them for turning out to vote against the backdrop of the 16-day government shutdown and partisan battling in Washington.
"It would have been easy to listen to this frustrating negativity and stay home today. But here in New Jersey, more than a million people rejected cynicism and came out on a Wednesday, in the middle of October, three weeks before we have another election, to fight the cynicism," he said.
"You didn't just vote, you believed that your vote and choice mattered," he said.
Booker becomes the first black U.S. senator from New Jersey. In Washington, Booker will join Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina as the nation's only two black senators.
He will fill the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Frank Lautenberg, who died in June at age 89.
Booker, a Rhodes scholar and Yale Law School graduate, rocketed to fame as a booster for the state's largest city, 12 miles from Manhattan, which has struggled with poverty and persistently high crime.
His first run for mayor was documented in the Oscar-nominated film "Street Fight." Booker is known to rub shoulders with celebrities and is a near-constant presence on Twitter.
During Booker's tenure as mayor, Newark received a US$100 million gift to its schools from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who said he had met Booker and was impressed by his plans.
Lonegan is the former mayor of Bogota and former state director of Americans for Prosperity, a political advocacy group funded by the conservative Koch brothers.