NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Democrat Cory Booker has won a special election to represent New Jersey in the U.S. Senate through next year, but the rising political star will have to return to the campaign trail almost immediately to run for a full term.
Booker, 44, defeated conservative Steve Lonegan on Wednesday after an aggressive two month race to finish the term of Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died in office in June at age 89.
The Newark mayor takes to Washington a national profile — boosted by a strong social media presence, frequent television appearances and his status as an Obama surrogate during the president's 2012 re-election campaign — just as the federal government begins functioning again after a 16-day shutdown.
"That's why I'm going to Washington — to take back that sense of pride," Booker said in his victory speech. "Not to play shallow politics that's used to attack and divide but to engage in the kind of hard, humble service that reaches out to others."
Booker, a supporter of gay marriage in a state where the issue is the subject of a court and legislative battle, talked about needing to improve America's schools and making the Senate "more accessible to all of us."
"If you voted for me, I will make you proud," he said. "If you didn't vote for me I will work every single day to earn your trust."
Booker, who has begun raising money to run for a full six-year term, would be on the ballot again in November 2014.
Lonegan, 57, told The Associated Press he has no plans to run again or return to Americans for Prosperity, the conservative, anti-tax group he quit to enter the race. He said he intends to start a business.
A feisty campaigner who unsuccessfully challenged Chris Christie for the Republican nomination for governor in 2009, Lonegan brought this race closer than many expected in a state that leans Democratic.