Newark Mayor Cory Booker won the Democratic nomination for a U.S. Senate seat Tuesday, setting up an Oct. 16 special election in New Jersey against Republican Steve Lonegan, the primary winner on the GOP side.
Booker, 44, who raised more than $8.6 million for the Senate run, is expected to be heavily favored in the race in a state where Democrats have a significant advantage in registered voters, and which hasn't elected a Republican to the Senate since 1972.
The winner will fill the final 14 months of the term of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat, who died June 3 at age 89.
Booker defeated U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. and Rush Holt, and State Assembly speaker Sheila Oliver in Tuesday's primary.
Lonegan, the former mayor of Bogota, N.J., won the GOP nomination by defeating his sole opponent, physician Alieta Eck, who has no electoral experience.
The Associated Press called both races within 45 minutes of the 8 p.m. poll closings; both Booker and Lonegan were leading by wide margins.
Booker, the young African-American mayor, is popular in New Jersey, media-savvy and single, and engaged in some back-and-forth with New Jersey voters on Twitter Tuesday, including this:
"Can I counter your proposal with my own: Will u vote for me? RT @lily_trieu: Cory Booker will you marry me? #Booker4Senate".
Long seen as a likely candidate for higher office, Booker had angered Lautenberg by indicating he would seek the Democratic nomination for the seat in 2014 while Lautenberg was still mulling a run for what would have been a sixth term. Lautenberg later announced he would retire at the end of the term. The last remaining veteran of World War II in the Senate, Lautenberg died June 3 of complications from viral pneumonia.
The Senate seat has been held since June 10 by Republican Jeffrey Chiesa, the state attorney general, who was appointed on an interim basis by Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
Lonegan has twice unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination for New Jersey governor, and also lost in a bid for a U.S. House seat.
In a profile of Booker on Tuesday, NPR's Liz Halloran summed up the political ascension of what she called "the man, the myth, the media machine":
"He's subsisted on food stamps, lived in public housing, saved a dog from the cold and a woman from a fire, housed hurricane homeless and famously shoveled a constituent's driveway after a snowstorm. ... A win on Tuesday would put the 44-year-old Yale-trained lawyer on the brink of bringing his established national celebrity and 1.4 million Twitter followers to Washington."
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