Democratic Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Republican
Steve Lonegan dominated their U.S. Senate primary contests Tuesday, each winning
by a large margin, setting up a clash of headline-grabbing candidates with
sharply different views.
Booker, a liberal on social issues and an advocate for poor cities, defeated three established lawmakers, moving him one step closer to formally taking his national profile into national politics. He vowed to use innovation and creativity to bridge Washington's partisan divides.
"I'm going to the Senate the same way I came to Newark: determined to be a positive force," Booker said, standing alone on an outdoor stage after his victory. "I will be someone who speaks truth to power."
For Booker, the primary race, which included two well-funded congressmen, may have been his biggest hurdle as he attempts to move from long-beleaguered Newark to Capitol Hill. Given his popularity and New Jersey's liberal bent, Booker enters the general election as a huge favorite over Lonegan, a proudly right-wing firebrand.
At his victory party at Championship Plaza, Booker ran onstage pumping his fist, with an American flag behind him and symbols of Newark's downtown development on each side. On his left was a recently opened Dinosaur Bar-B-Que topped by "luxury loft" apartments. On his right was the glass facade of the New Jersey Devils' home, the Prudential Center (a project Booker once criticized).
Hip-hop legend Q-tip spun celebratory music.
"In Newark, we showed that if you put in the hard work, if you take the more difficult path, if you bring people together, if you overcome differences, incredible things can happen," Booker said. "I will be unwavering in my focus on finding common ground."
If he wins Oct. 16, Booker would be the ninth-ever African American senator and the fourth popularly elected.
With nearly all the vote counted, Booker had about 60 percent of the Democratic vote, and Lonegan had about 80 percent of the Republican vote.
Lonegan, former mayor of Bogota, a small borough in Bergen County, easily beat physician Alieta Eck, who had never run before. After twice losing gubernatorial primaries, he'll finally have the chance to test his uncompromising conservative message in a statewide general election.
Speaking at a La Quinta hotel in Secaucus, Lonegan derided Booker's "Hollywood elite" supporters.
"They've never been to New Jersey before. They don't know what a real street fight is," Lonegan said. "They're about to find out real fast."
Embracing an underdog role, he compared Booker to the British during the American Revolution, with "superior funding and the whole British crown behind them."
"But they lost to a ragtag group of rebels, you remember that," he said to cheers from a couple of hundred supporters. Beside him were his wife, Lorraine, and two adult daughters.
After an odd midsummer primary campaign, Lonegan and Booker will run a similarly brief sprint to the special general election. Gov. Christie set the unusual election dates in early June after longtime Democratic Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg died in office.
Booker is a rising Democratic star, often mentioned as a future presidential contender, with famous friends, wealthy supporters, and a national following -- despite sharp criticisms from opponents who say his tangible achievements don't
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