Cory Booker Wins New Jersey Senate Race

Mayor Booker is now Senator-Elect Booker.

Cory Booker 2

To no real surprise, Newark Mayor Cory Booker pulled off a win in the Special Election to replace Frank Lautenberg in the United States Senate:

Mayor Cory A. Booker of Newark easily won New Jersey’s special Senate election on Wednesday, finally rising to an office that measures up to his national profile.

He will arrive in Washington already one of the country’s most prominent Democrats, and its best-known black politician other than President Obama, who backed him aggressively. Mr. Booker’s fund-raising prowess puts him on course to lead his party’s campaign efforts in the Senate, and he has been mentioned as a possible vice-presidential pick for 2016.

With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, Mr. Booker had 55 percent of the vote to 44 percent for Steve Lonegan, a Republican former mayor of Bogota, N.J., and state director of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, according to The Associated Press. Still, the campaign gave a wider audience to certain facets of Mr. Booker that long ago began to prompt eye-rolling among his constituents.

With a Twitter following six times as large as the city he has led, Mr. Booker was known outside Newark largely for his appearances on late-night television and his heroics: rescuing a neighbor from a burning building, shoveling out snowbound cars, living on a food stamp diet.

The campaign gave him less flattering national attention for his Twitter exchanges with a dancer in a vegan strip club, and renewed old questions about whether he embellished an oft-told story about a moving encounter with a drug dealer, who may or may not have existed (Mr. Booker called him “an archetype”). He had to resign from a media company that Silicon Valley investors had paid him millions to start — but not before the resignation of the 15-year-old son of a television executive, whom Mr. Booker had put on the company’s board.

Having started his political career by moving into a Newark housing project, Mr. Booker spent the final days before his Senate election beating back stories in the conservative news media that he did not actually live in the city; the fact that this story could catch hold at all suggested the level of suspicion aimed at the mayor in the city where he began his rise. And he had to call off campaign events during a nearly two-week spree of murders in Newark this summer, underscoring the layoffs of police officers during his tenure, and a complaint that has long made him bristle: that he is a better orator than manager.

Polls suggested this took a toll. In a Rutgers-Eagleton Institute survey a week before the election, Mr. Booker had a positive rating among 54 percent of likely voters, but that had dropped nine points from early September. His unfavorable ratings had nearly doubled, to 32 percent. A third of likely voters said his career had been more about self-promotion than improving Newark, which is the state’s largest city.

At the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark on Wednesday night, a festive crowd of about 150 people shook blue and white pompoms to Bon Jovi songs as they waited for Mr. Booker to arrive.

Thanking supporters, Mr. Booker returned to many of the lines he used to open his campaign in June, promising to bring a new kind of politics to Washington.

“Too many people are forgetting that the lines that divide us are nothing compared to the ties that bind us,” he said. “It forgets that old saying, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.’ ”

Conceding the race before a crowd of a few hundred supporters at a banquet hall in Bridgewater, N.J., Mr. Lonegan called the race a victory, even in defeat, and thanked the prominent conservatives who had come to the state to campaign for him, including Rand Paul and Sarah Palin.

“We came well closer to winning this election than anyone ever expected,” Mr. Lonegan said to loud cheers. “The big Washington power groups and consultants said we couldn’t win. Well, maybe if they had played a role in this election, we would have won.”

The final results, which showed a 10.3% gap between Booker and Lonegan ended up being slightly closer than the 13.8% polling average that RealClearPolitics had at the end of the race, and far below the 20+ point gap that we saw in polling at the start of the race. As the linked article notes, and as I noted in a previous post, this can be attributed to both the natural tightening of the race and the fact that Booker did stumble a few times during the course of this race, which perhaps isn’t surprising considering that this was the first campaign he ran outside of the City of Newark and New Jersey politics can be, well, a bit rough-and-tumble. Other factors that likely played into the lower than expected margin of victory include the fact that voter turnout was 23.8%, actually pretty respectable for a Wednesday in October but nowhere near normal turnout for non-Presidential year election in New Jersey, and the interesting fact that Booker’s campaign spent less than $1,000,000 on television, which is actually a pretty extraordinarily low number for a state that is served by two of the most expensive media markets in the country. To put things in perspective, three days ago we learned that Booker had out-raised Lonegan in the third quarter $11.2 million to $1.35 million. Had he wanted to, Booker could’ve flooded both New York and Philadelphia airwaves with ads. The fact that he didn’t strikes me as both a measure how assured the campaign was of victory, and a desire to bank at least some of this money for the next election, which for Booker is less than 13 months away in November 2014.

Booker will be only the 9th African-American to serve in the United States Senate, and only the 4th to have been popularly elected.1  He will also be among the ten youngest members of the Senate, in a seat that he could hold for quite some time into the future if he so desires. No doubt, he will be among the most closely watched new Senators in quite some time. It’s going to be quite a change, though, going from a job as Mayor of the most populous city in New Jersey where he was very hands-on and very communicative on social media to being just one among 100 Senators, and one of the lowest guys on the totem pole at that. There will be plenty of speculation about this future national political career, obviously, although it seems as though Booker himself is doing as much as possible to knock back that speculation at the moment. Indeed, he’s likely to keep his head down a bit at the start, especially since he has an election campaign to worry about in just about thirteen months, although to be honest I don’t think he’s going to have to worry about the result in that race all that much.

1 Of the remaining five, two were appointed by the Mississippi State Legislature during Reconstruction under the pre-17th Amendment method for selecting Senators and three, including current South Carolina Senator Tim Scott were appointed to fill out an unexpired term.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2013, Congress, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    1 Of the remaining five, two were appointed by the Mississippi State Legislature during Reconstruction under the pre-17th Amendment method for selecting Senators and three, including current South Carolina Senator Tim Scott were appointed to fill out an unexpired term.

    Doug, you forgot BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA who stole his Senate seat through CHICAGO STYLE THUG POLITICS!!!!

    (end of sarcasm)

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    As to Booker being in the Senate, I am interested in seeing what he actually does (does the rising star burn out and fade away?). No opinion good or bad of him, only that what ever else he has to be better than the alternative.

  3. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    So New York now has a third Senator. Good for the Empire State.

  4. grumpy realist says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Sorry, Tom Lehrer will have to sue you for copyright infringement.

  5. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    So New York now has a third Senator. Good for the Empire State.

    Even better news is is that the Tea Party candidate lost. As if we need other malevolent, dyspeptic, obstructionist legislator who is willing to countenance a downgrade in America’s credit rating or even a default in order to advance a Tea Party agenda.

  6. Rob in CT says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    *Terrorist Fist Bump*

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Why not? Idaho has 8.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: New Jersey Pop: 8.865 million

    Combined populations of Idaho: 1.596 million, Montana: 1.005 million, Wyoming: .576 million, Utah: 2.855 million, totals (rounded up) = 6.075 million.

    Wow! Numbers are fun! Nebraska fits in too! 1.856 million! How about North Dakota?!?!?! .699 million.

    BUZZZZ!!! Awe, too bad, we went over the Jersey line.

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Rob in CT: (he couldn’t have done it with out the help of his good buddy Bill Ayers)

  10. rudderpedals says:

    Landslide win here. Despite the FUD. Sweet

  11. bill says:

    Mr. Booker was known outside Newark largely for his appearances on late-night television and his heroics: rescuing a neighbor from a burning building, shoveling out snowbound cars

    inside newark he was known as the guy who didn’t live in newark! his cop escorts alerted him to fun photo-ops and such, and the media just ate it up with no questions asked.

  12. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @grumpy realist: Thank you. After my earlier Monty Python reference went over a few heads, I was worried no one would catch the Lehrer allusion.

  13. Rob in CT says:

    @bill:

    Just so you know, Bill, the people you listen to in the media are lying to you. Constantly.

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel/2013/10/15/birther_director_claims_that_cory_booker_does_not_live_in_newark.html

    Quick recap: A director best-known for a birther conspiracy film about President Obama makes short documentaries asserting that Cory Booker (who also happens to be a black politician—what are the odds?) is lying about his past. The news organization that publishes these claims does not back them up, explaining instead that it’s only reprinting what the filmmaker’s interview subjects had to say. The story is linked all day—one of only two news cycles before the election—on the Drudge Report and Fox News. It’s endorsed by the candidate’s opponent.

    Do you want to be lied to, Bill? Do you like it?

  14. anjin-san says:

    my earlier Monty Python reference went over a few heads,

    My brother used to say stuff like this all the time. Of course he was in high school back then.

  15. Rob in CT says:

    Actually, the more relevant bit from the Weigel blog post:

    Reporters in New York and New Jersey were dumbfounded. BuzzFeed’s Ruby Cramer obtained rental checks paying for the apartment and a May disclosure that Booker once lived there, as well as dug up a story from this summer about how Booker was planning to move to a new property. Bill Wichert attended GOP candidate Steve Lonegan’s press conference on the story, which featured the three Booker critics from the DC’s video/article and no other proof from the candidate. Wichert talked to other residents of the neighborhood and found people who didn’t have axes to grind and said Booker lived there.

    The Daily Caller or whatever sewer you read is not credible. They publish garbage, Bill. They lie to you.

  16. wr says:

    @bill: “inside newark he was known as the guy who didn’t live in newark! ”

    According to all those Newark natives you hang out with, right? I mean, Newark insiders Rush and Sean…

  17. Rob in CT says:

    @Rob in CT:

    I love that I got a downvote for that.

    Don’t want to hear it, do you? The Daily Caller produces agiprop, not news.

  18. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Rob in CT: I love that I got a downvote for that.

    Wasn’t me, dude. I don’t care for those games.

    I disagree with you, as I think TheDC does some good stuff, but I ain’t gonna downtwinkle you over it. And there are some public documents that support TheDC’s story — like the lease on one of Booker’s “homes” being in the name of the Newark PD.

  19. Rob in CT says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I didn’t think it was you, Jenos.

    As for the DC, You are very credulous when it comes to their work. They tell you things you want to believe, and you believe them. Anyone can fall victim to that.

  20. Gavrilo says:
  21. bill says:

    @Rob in CT: his neighbors must be lying then, like it matters. Hey, if rahm can get away with it then why not corey ?

  22. C. Clavin says:

    yes bill…once you’ve been shown to be wrong…don’t change your mind…double down on the crazy.

  23. Rob in CT says:

    @bill:

    Nice illustration of the fact that you’re unreachable, bill. The sources you trust are lying to you. I showed you this. You could get angry at the people who lied to you, but no.

    The people at the DC played you for a fool, and will again. How does that feel? Does it feel good?

  24. bill says:

    @Rob in CT: you want to reach me? wanna text or something? i don’t get mad over superfluous bs, it’s humorous at best. you believe what you read- good for you.

  25. Pinky says:

    At the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark on Wednesday night, a festive crowd of about 150 people shook blue and white pompoms to Bon Jovi songs as they waited for Mr. Booker to arrive.

    How old must that get? Do they ever have a rally in NJ that doesn’t have Bon Jovi songs? I mean, Springsteen I could handle, but Bon Jovi?