Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker easily defeated three rivals for the Democratic Senate nomination Tuesday. He will now face Republican Steve Lonegan in the Oct. 16 special election to replace Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died June 3.
Booker spoke in platitudes at his victory celebration. "Make me your senator, New Jersey, and I will be unwavering in my focus on finding common ground," he said. "I will not be concerned with right or left but going forward."
The renowned Twitter user also celebrated with a quote from "Winnie the Pooh," a source he has used before to capture just the right emotion to share with his 1.4 million followers.
"'Piglet noticed that even though he had a Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude,'" Booker tweeted. "(Thanks 2 all who helped)."
Booker's now-vanquished Democratic rivals criticized the mayor for being light on policy during the primary.
Rep. Rush Holt, who received 17 percent of the primary vote, faulted Booker for having a vague position on National Security Agency surveillance programs and for being insufficiently passionate about a host of progressive issues. Rep. Frank Pallone, who finished second with 20 percent, touted endorsements from Lautenberg's family, who said the late senator considered Booker a "show horse."
The most serious threat to Booker's campaign was the Aug. 7 disclosure by The New York Times that Booker had not initially disclosed his stake in the start-up firm Waywire, a video-curating website for which he serves as chairman. The firm placed CNN President Jeff Zucker's 15-year-old son on its board. "I don't think it takes a lot of thinking to see what's going on there," Holt told U.S. News at the time. "My jaw dropped."
Lonegan, who easily won the GOP nomination, is the former mayor of 8,000-person Bogota, N.J. He gave a feisty victory speech.
"Liberty today is under attack by an exploding national government that reaches deeper and further into every aspect of our lives every day," Lonegan said. "Cory Booker – my opponent – has the support and the money of the Silicon Valley moguls who collect our data. They decided who their candidate is going to be. They're going to have a party right around now. They'll have their big crystal goblets, their martini glasses up with their fingers in the air, toasting their anointed candidate."
The Republican candidate said that to Booker and his famous backers, voters are "nothing more than another rating point in the Nielsen ratings."
In an interview Friday, Lonegan told U.S. News he plans to make NSA surveillance and personal freedom his most prominent campaign issues. Booker "is as vague as they come" on important issues, he said.
Booker's track record as mayor will also likely be praised and attacked by outside groups. An online video ad released by a conservative political group Aug. 1 accuses Booker of mismanaging a $100 million donation to Newark schools from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The mayor has also been locked in a bitter, multiyear fight with the humane society operating his city's only animal shelter.
The most recent general election poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University Aug. 1-5, found that Booker leads Lonegan by 25 percentage points. The 2,042-respondent survey's calculated margin of error was plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.