New Jersey voters picked Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Democrat, to assume the Senate seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg, also a Democrat, in a special election Wednesday. Booker topped his Republican opponent, Steve Lonegan, 55 percent to 44 percent, according to unofficial tallies reported by The Associated Press.
Lonegan, a former mayor of Bogota, N.J., was considered by many to be too conservative for the deep blue state and many speculate Republican Gov. Chris Christie opted to hold the special election on a different day than his own re-election, scheduled for Nov. 5 so he wouldn’t be on the ballot the same day as the popular Booker and campaign with the less popular Lonegan.
With his election, Booker becomes only the second African American currently serving in the Senate, alongside Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and just the ninth African American either elected or appointed ever to serve in the Senate.
“Too many people are forgetting that the lines that divide us are nothing compared to the ties that bind us,” Booker said during his victory speech, according to The New York Times. “It forgets that old saying, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.’”
Booker has long been a high-profile politician, with a massive Twitter following and a reputation for heroic acts, such as pulling a woman from a burning building and rescuing abandoned animals. But his reputation suffered under the scrutiny of the campaign, revealing he had Twitter exchanges with a vegan stripper, questioning the veracity of stories he told about a supposed drug dealer and causing him to resign from a Silicon Valley startup from which he earned millions, though it’s unclear what exactly for.
Booker also found himself in hot water during the 2012 presidential campaign when he criticized President Barack Obama’s team from demonizing Bain Capital, the venture capital firm formerly run by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Booker, a recipient of lots of donations from similar firms, quickly apologized for his critique.
Booker will come to Washington at a tumultuous time, with Congress having just voted to narrowly avert fiscal calamity but facing critical negotiations on the budget.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid issued a statement Wednesday night to welcome Booker to the body, where the Democratic caucus controls the majority 55 to 45 over Republicans.
“As the mayor of Newark, Cory showed a can-do attitude and was not afraid to literally roll up his sleeves to serve the citizens he represented,” Reid said. “We saw him work tirelessly through the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, tending personally to the city’s residents. At the same time, Cory is deeply engaged on issues of national import, such as climate change and economic development.”