Newark Mayor Corey Booker won election to the U.S. Senate Wednesday, defeating Steve Lonegan in the race to replace the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, the Associated Press is reporting.
With nearly all precincts reporting, the Democrat was leading Steve Lonegan, a former Republican mayor of Bogota in Bergen County, 55 to 44 percent. Booker has served as mayor of Newark since 2006.
The Oct. 16 polling was the first ever for the state and was prompted by Lautenberg's death.
In a controversial decision, Gov. Chris Christie chose to hold a special primary and general election solely for the U.S. Senate seat rather than waiting until the November general election when Christie will stand for re-election.
Opponents attempted to block Christie’s plan, which came under a hail of criticism and speculation that Christie did not want to share the election day spotlight with Booker, who brought national name recognition and a large following. But the state Supreme Court allowed both elections to continue, at an estimated cost of about $25 million.
While Booker faced a deep bench of Democratic contenders in the Aug. 13 special primary election, Lonegan often seemed to be looking past his only opponent, Alita Eck, a Somerset County physician, with whom he shared many views.
Booker, who also won handily the Democratic nomination, faced formidable challengers in U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone and Rush Holt, as well as state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver.
But money to Booker’s camp came pouring in, raising more cash than all his competitors combined, but also raising questions about to whom Booker could be beholden. A sizeable portion of Booker’s campaign donations came from outside New Jersey.
But Booker’s win in the primary may have seemed inevitable. Even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seemed to believe the election was little more than a prelude.
During his acceptance speech following his primary win, Booker pledged to work for wage equality, marriage equality, to end child poverty and to raise the minimum wage.
Following his decisive primary win, polls consistently put the two-term Newark mayor well ahead of Lonegan.
But Lonegan brought out some star power of his own. Campaigning with former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Texas Governor Rick Perry, Lonegan managed to cut somewhat into Booker’s lead in late polling.
Booker's campaign struggled a bit in the late going, hitting a minor bump with a twitter exchange with a Portland stripper. And in the last weeks of the campaign, his father, Cary Booker, died after a battle with Parkinson’s disease.