With 94 percent of the precincts reporting shortly before 11 p.m., Booker, the mayor of Newark, had been declared the winner among the Democrats with 59 percent of the vote, followed by 20 percent for U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, 16 percent for U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, and 4 percent for state Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver.
Among the Republicans, Lonegan – a former mayor of Bogota, N.J. who now heads a conservative group – claimed 80 percent of the vote compared with 20 percent for challenger Alieta Eck, also with 94 percent of the precincts reporting.
As CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported, Booker ran up to the stage to accept his party’s nomination as a crowd cheered him outside.
As WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported, there were several hundred people in what has been called “Championship Plaza” adjacent to the Prudential Center in Newark. Booker spoke about trying to bring people together, about working together, and about moving forward rather than moving right or left.
He said he would fight for marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples, equal pay for women, and raising the minimum wage.
Booker said if he wins, he will bring a new kind of politics to Washington. And he had a message for his Republican challenger.
“I will match his negative attacks with positive vision,” he said.
Lonegan said if he wins, he will fight for less government.
“We are the small businesses that are the backbone of this nation, that mortgage our homes, that build jobs and a real economy in this country — not the government,” he said.
“You can count on this — I will fight for what I believe in with conviction, with passion, and with total commitment to your liberty — every step of the way,” he continued.
Lonegan also wasted no time in slamming Booker.
“We know what Cory Booker is about,” Lonegan said. “He is funded by Hollywood.”
Booker went on the attack against Lonegan, too.
“If he demeans a woman’s equality, I will affirm it. If he seeks to regulate our gay brothers and sisters to second class citizenship, I will elevate them and everyone,” Booker said.
Voters picked Booker and Lonegan to run to fill the seat of the late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died in June.
Low turnout was expected, and on Tuesday morning, turnout seemed to be on the minds of many, including Booker.
“This is New Jersey. You’ve got to earn every single vote you get, and so polls don’t vote, people do,” he said as he voted blocks from his home. “I’m praying that in this election we see a large voter turnout and that whoever is elected with a mandate.”
The final days of the campaign had Booker touring the state by bus. Actress Eva Longoria was among those campaigning with him; earlier, Oprah Winfrey held a private fundraiser for him in Jersey City.
Meanwhile, Lonegan was spotted casting his own vote in Bergen County earlier Tuesday.
He has been criticized by some after someone in his campaign tweeted a message that Booker and many others called racist. The tweet showed a map of Newark with neighborhoods marked the names of various ethnic groups, along with the title, “Cory Booker’s foreign policy debate prep notes.”
For his part, Lonegan immediately had the tweet deleted.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also cast his vote in the special election Tuesday. The Republican, who is close to Booker, has not publicly campaigned for any of his party’s candidates.
Christie set the dates for the special election after Lautenberg died at age 89. Lautenberg had been a reliably liberal vote in the Senate and was its oldest member.
Overall, with many voters on vacation and heavy rain drenching much of the state, turnout was expected to be exceptionally low in the unprecedented mid-August election.
“We’re looking at a very low turnout, possibly the lowest in primary history in New Jersey,” Essex County Clerk Chris Durkin told 1010 WINS. “It’s middle of summer, it’s an August election — which is extremely rare — and also we had about six hours of rain this morning, which you could say did its part to stifle democracy.”
“We’ll see by the end of the day,” said Eileen DeBari, chairwoman of the Bergen County Board of Elections. “I’ll be surprised if it’s higher than anticipated.”
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