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Booker bests Lonegan in U.S. Senate race

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Booker fields questions from reporters in this file photo.
Booker fields questions from reporters in this file photo. - (Andrew George / NJBIZ)

Democratic Newark Mayor Cory Booker bested Republican challenger Steve Lonegan on Wednesday night in a special election held to fill the longtime U.S. Senate seat of Frank Lautenberg, who died in June of pneumonia at age 89.

Victory was called for Booker at around 9:30 p.m., just 90 minutes after polls closed. He would go on to win by an 11-point margin, receiving 55 percent of the vote compared to Lonegan's 44 percent.

"If you voted for me, I will make you proud," Booker told a crowd of supporters at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, in Newark. "If you didn't vote for me, I will work every single day to earn your trust."

As he has done repeatedly along the campaign trail and during debates, Booker referenced examples of economic development seen in Newark during his tenure as a testament to his desire to work in a bipartisan manner to achieve common goals.

"Alone we can be strong, but when we are together, we can be invincible," Booker said.

Booker also took time during his speech to speak about the recent death of his father and how he helped shape his sense of civic responsibility.

"We are America," Booker said. "We are founded to be great, not good. To be great. And that's why I'm going to Washington."

At Lonegan's election night event in Bridgewater, the former Bogota mayor said despite the pessimistic outlook that "big Washington power groups and consultants" had about his campaign, the end result spoke for itself.

"We put together a phenomenal campaign over the last four months. We came well closer to winning this election than anyone would have ever expected," Lonegan said.

After saying that he had called Booker to congratulate him on his victory and wished him the best in Washington, Lonegan, a former mayor of Bogota, quipped that he had then asked himself, "Who wants that job, anyway?"

And Lonegan made it clear that he won't want the job anytime in the far future, either. Noting that he was "going to go back into the private sector," Lonegan told his supporters that he was effectively retiring from politics.

"I've done my part," Lonegan said. "It's time for others now to step up to the plate to run for office in your local communities and become activists."

While Booker can now only wait to be sworn into office and replace acting U.S. Sen. Jeff Chiesa, who was appointed to the seat in June by Gov. Chris Christie, he won't have the opportunity to get comfortable. The seat is scheduled to come up for re-election next year, likely placing Booker back on the campaign trail sooner than later.

With his victory, Booker becomes just the second African-American currently in the Senate, and the first to be elected to the chamber since Barack Obama in 2004.

 

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Andrew George

Andrew George

Andrew George covers the Statehouse from NJBIZ's Trenton bureau. Born and raised in N.J., Andrew has also spent time as a reporter in D.C., Texas and Pa. His email is andrewg@njbiz.com and he is @AndrGeorge on Twitter.

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