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Democrat Cory Booker wins New Jersey Senate primary

Newark Mayor Cory Booker cruises to victory in the race to replace Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg. Steven M. Lonegan, former mayor of Bogota, N.J., easily wins the Republican primary.

August 13, 2013|By Lisa Mascaro
  • Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker after voting Tuesday.
Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker after voting Tuesday. (Mel Evans / Associated Press )

WASHINGTON — New Jersey Democrats chose Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a rising party star, in Tuesday's special primary to seek a U.S. Senate seat this fall, while Republicans selected Steven M. Lonegan, the former mayor of Bogota, N.J.

Booker has drawn national attention for his efforts to improve "Brick City" and his embrace of Twitter as a form of civic engagement. He is favored to replace Democratic Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, who died in June at 89. The winner will serve the remaining 15 months of Lautenberg's term.

Booker sent a few tweets of gratitude to supporters shortly after 9 p.m.

"Thanks 2 all who worked/canvassed/called & spread the word 4 our campaign," he wrote.

"This is our victory — thank you," he said in another tweet. "Please continue to run with me."

Because Democrats outnumber Republicans in the Garden State, the October general election is expected to remain an uphill climb for the GOP, despite the popularity of Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

"It is safe to say that winning the Democratic primary on Aug. 13 is the entire game," wrote Jennifer Duffy, a senior analyst for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, in an early assessment.

Lonegan said he would ignore pollsters and campaign on his beliefs, which include repealing the Affordable Care Act. "We know what we believe in," he said in a Secaucus, N.J., victory speech. "We're going to say what we believe, and when we go to Washington, D.C., we are going to do what we say."

With about 60% of precincts reporting late Tuesday, Booker had about 75% of the Democratic vote, the Associated Press reported, while Lonegan had about 80% on the Republican side.

Booker, 44, has used Twitter to advantage, becoming well-known among his 1.4 million followers for personally answering their tweets — often about city problems. He has also won support from politicians, CEOs and celebrities: California's Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted his backing Tuesday, and actress Eva Longoria campaigned with Booker on Monday.

If elected to the Senate, Booker would become the second African American in a chamber that has rarely had two black senators serving at once.

Christie had appointed Republican Jeffrey Chiesa, who was the state's attorney general, to fill the seat that became vacant with Lautenberg's death. Chiesa did not run in the special election.

Booker's unsuccessful Democratic primary challengers included two congressmen — Frank Pallone Jr. and Rush D. Holt — as well as state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver.

Lonegan fended off newcomer Alieta Eck, a doctor who was gaining tea party enthusiasm in the final days.

Lonegan, a former businessman, became known as a fiscally conservative mayor in Bogota, where he took office in 1996 and won reelection twice.

Afterward, Lonegan became the state director of Americans for Prosperity, a free-market advocacy organization based in Washington. He campaigned as someone who "dedicated his life to defending the rights of taxpayers and individual liberties."

Booker graduated from Stanford University and Yale Law School before returning to New Jersey, his home state. He lived in a Newark public housing complex for several years to connect with residents and won a seat on the City Council at age 29. He was elected mayor on his second attempt in 2006, ousting a veteran incumbent.

Earlier Tuesday, Booker tweeted notes of thanks to individual voters. When one Twitter message proposed marriage, Booker responded: "Can I counter your proposal with my own: Will u vote for me?"

lisa.mascaro@latimes.com

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