(USA TODAY) -- Cory Booker, the charismatic Newark mayor who won a national
following via Twitter and his own heroics, was elected to the U.S.
Booker, a Democrat, easily defeated Republican
Steve Lonegan, the former mayor of Bogota, N.J., in a special election
to fill the seat held by Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died in
Booker is New Jersey's first African-American senator and
the only elected black Senator in the upper house. Republican Sen. Tim
Scott of South Carolina was appointed in January to fill the seat of
Sen. Jim DeMint, who resigned.
"Thank you so much, New Jersey, I'm
proud to be your senator-elect,'' Booker tweeted minutes after the
Associated Press declared him the winner.
Addressing supporters at
a victory party, Booker said he will go to Washington "to engage in the
kind of hard, humble service that reaches out to others." He also paid
an emotional tribute to his father, Cary, who died last week. "Death can
end a life, but it cannot end a love," Booker said.
date for the special election -- a Wednesday less than a month before
the November legislative and gubernatorial election -- was set by
Republican Gov. Chris Christie. The end of nine-week campaign, hard
fought between Booker and Lonegan, coincided with 16-day government
Booker, who is in his second term as mayor of the
state's largest city, made much of his ability to cross party lines and
reach compromise, often citing his experience working with Republican
Gov. Chris Christie on education and economic development in Newark.
As he voted Wednesday, Booker called the election "a chance to make a statement about what is going on in Washington.''
who came to cast ballots at Firehouse #3 in Teaneck, N.J., in the
northern part of the state, had the congressional stalemate on their
minds. Leonard Hospidor, 42, an audio engineer, voted with one goal:
"Stopping the madness.''
Hospidor voted for Booker. But his vote
was "not just a partisan thing as it is so much trying to restore a
little bit of sanity to the process,'' he said. "It's gotten out of
control, the crazy thing, and it's a little bit embarrassing.''
former state director of a Tea Party-supporting group, Americans for
Prosperity, said he supported the government shutdown, calling it "a
good way to find out which government services are essential,'' and as a
way to stop the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Diehl, 47, a computer technician who voted for Lonegan, said he also
favored the shutdown "If that's what it takes to get them to stop
spending down in Washington,'' He patted his shirt pocket. "I've got a
mortgage (payment) check in my pocket right now,'' he said. "I've got to
make that money, I can't keep putting it on a credit card. I've got to
pay my bills.''
The shutdown "hurts my heart,'' said Glenda
Hadnott, 60, a partner in an accounting consulting firm. "How do you let
this great country all of a sudden have no money to pay Social Security
or the military because you're playing some game?" she asked.
voted for Booker because "I do not want to see another Republican in
there. I don't feel the Republicans care about the middle class and
"Besides, I love Cory Booker,'' she added. "It's not
because of his color,'' but because he is an "open personality,'' said
Hadnott, who is African-American. "Cory will go out on the street and
Cory will talk to anybody, and he won't put himself on a pedestal.''
entered the race a heavy favorite: New Jersey has not elected a
Republican to the Senate since 1972. With a big fundraising advantage,
he largely ignored Lonegan until the final two weeks, when opinion polls
showed the race tightening to low double-digits. Then Booker began
returning Lonegan's fire, calling the Republican an "extremist'' and
pointing out Lonegan's opposition to abortion rights and same-sex
Long considered a rising Democratic star, Booker was
able to call on President Obama, who carried New Jersey by nearly 17
percentage points last year, to make a last-minute video on his behalf.
mocked Booker as "a tweeter, not a leader.'' Booker's fondness for
Twitter - where he has 1.4 million followers -- held through Election
Day, when he tweeted at least 50 times, compared with about a dozen by
"I worry that he's too much hype and not enough
substance,'' said Katie Norris, 47, a copy editor. A Democrat, she voted
for Booker regardless. "Compared with Lonegan - I was not a fan,'' she
But Denise Eberly, 38, a theater technician, said Booker is
simply communicating in a way that's important for an elected official.
Booker's high social media profile is to his credit. "There's something
to be said about being able to reach people and use the media that's
When Booker replaces Sen. Jeff Chiesa, a Republican
appointed by Christie to fill the seat vacated by Lautenberg, Senate
Democrats gain an additional vote. That will widen their majority to 55,
including two independents who generally vote Democratic, to 45
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