Newark Mayor Cory Booker moved a step closer to Senate stardom Tuesday with a celebrity-powered win over three other New Jersey Democrats seeking to fill the seat of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg.
With only 7 percent of the vote counted in the state’s Democratic primary, Booker already had more than twice as many votes as his closest competitor, 13-term Rep. Frank Pallone, and the Associated Press declared Booker the winner. Booker earned the right to take on Republican Steve Lonegan in a special Senate election set for Oct. 16. Lonegan, a former mayor of Bogota, N.J., trounced physician Alieta Eck in the GOP primary Tuesday.
Booker, described by the popular website Vice.com as “one of the hippest, most tech-savvy politicians in the country,” will be heavily favored to take the place of Lautenberg, who died June 3 at age 89 with 19 months left in his fifth Senate term.
Booker’s decisive primary win over Pallone, Rep. Rush Holt, and state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver came as many New Jersey residents were vacationing at the shore and thinking more about sunscreen than politics. Those stuck at home were treated to a race that featured stump speeches for Booker by Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria and a glitzy fundraiser hosted by Oprah Winfrey, who has dubbed Booker “the rock star mayor.”
Booker, 44, is such an imposing political figure that New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie, a rising star in his own party, scheduled the special Senate election for October, rather than have it coincide with the gubernatorial election in November, to avoid being on the same ballot with the popular Newark mayor.
Since first winning the mayor’s office in 2006, Booker has gained a national reputation as a Democratic superstar. He is credited with bringing $1 billion worth of business development to Newark and persuaded Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to donate $100 million to the city’s schools. On the side, Booker has rescued a woman from a burning building, chased down a mugger near City Hall, housed victims of Hurricane Sandy in his residence, and built a Twitter following bigger than another famous son of New Jersey, rock star Bruce Springsteen.
Booker’s victory in Tuesday’s primary was a crushing blow for Pallone, who has been eyeing the Senate for years. He was a candidate for the seat vacated by Democratic Sen. Jon Corzine in 2006 before bowing out in favor of appointed Sen. Robert Menendez; this year, anticipating that Lautenberg would not seek reelection next year, Pallone had raised $4 million by the spring for a 2014 Senate race. That remains a possibility, of course, but it appears Pallone would have to face Booker again — this time as an incumbent — if both decide to run for a full term in the Senate next year.
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Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”
"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.
"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."
"Clinton and Bernie Sanders "are now devoting additional money to television advertising. A day after Sanders announced a new ad buy of less than $2 million in the state, Clinton announced her own television campaign. Ads featuring actor Morgan Freeman as well as labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta will air beginning on Fridayin Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles media markets. Some ads will also target Latino voters and Asian American voters. The total value of the buy is about six figures according to the Clinton campaign." Meanwhile, a new poll shows Sanders within the margin of error, trailing Clinton 44%-46%.