Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a rising national Democratic star, was elected to the U.S. Senate on Wednesday and will become New Jersey’s first African American senator.
Booker defeated Republican Steve Lonegan, a former mayor of Bogota, N.J. With most votes counted late Wednesday, Booker was carrying 55 percent of the vote.
When Booker is sworn in, the Democratic caucus will once again hold a 55 to 45 advantage over the GOP conference. Booker will fill the seat once held by Frank Lautenberg, a long-serving Democratic senator who died in June at age 89. Republican Gov. Chris Christie appointed fellow Republican Jeff Chiesa to be Lautenberg’s interim replacement.
Booker, 44, will become the chamber’s second African American member along with Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.
Booker will enter the Senate having already achieved celebrity status. A regular on cable news programs and Sunday morning news shows with more than 1.4 million followers on Twitter, Booker has cultivated a profile that extends well beyond New Jersey.
Booker won comfortably Wednesday despite running a lackluster campaign. Tweets he sent an Oregon stripper and questions about whether a drug dealer he often cited in early political speeches was real caused him to veer off message.
He also dealt with personal tragedy during the campaign. Booker’s father died last week after battling Parkinson’s disease, prompting the mayor to take some time away from campaigning.