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Former Newark Mayor Cory Booker Sworn In As U.S. Senator

Vice President Joe Biden Conducts Ceremony
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Vice President Joe Biden congratulates Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) after administering a ceremonial swearing-in as his mother Carolyn Booker looks on in the Old Senate Chamber at the U.S. Captiol. October 31, 2013. (credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Vice President Joe Biden congratulates Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) after administering a ceremonial swearing-in as his mother Carolyn Booker looks on in the Old Senate Chamber at the U.S. Captiol. October 31, 2013. (credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Cory Booker, who became a rising star in the Democratic Party as mayor of Newark, N.J., is the nation’s newest senator.

Booker, 44, was sworn in as a U.S. senator at noon Thursday. Vice President Joe Biden conducted the ceremony in the Old Senate Chamber. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) held the bible on which Booker took his oath.

The Democrat was surrounded by family, including his mother and brother. His father died Oct. 10.

Booker won a special election Oct. 16 to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg. He’ll serve the remaining 14 months of the term.

The former mayor becomes the second African-American in the Senate. The other is Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina.

“Let’s not forget; my state now has a Latino and a black representing it. I mean, that’s kind of incredible. So New Jersey is a special kind of place,” Sen. Booker said following his swearing in.

Menendez offered his new colleague some advice.

“When your passion calls you on something, use that eloquent voice of yours to try to promote those views,” New Jersey’s senior senator said.

Booker and his mother met with Majority Leader Harry Reid Thursday morning. In the afternoon, he’ll meet with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office.

Cory Booker stands with his mother and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid shortly before being sworn in as U.S. Senator for New Jersey, Oct. 31, 2013. (credit: Monica Miller/WCBS 880)

Cory Booker stands with his mother and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid shortly before being sworn in as U.S. Senator for New Jersey, Oct. 31, 2013. (credit: Monica Miller/WCBS 880)

Booker’s career has finally ascended to the national stage, but his profile has been there for years. He was dubbed a “rock star mayor” by his friend Oprah Winfrey, has 1.4 million Twitter followers and is a fixture on late-night talk shows.

Booker tapped Wall Street to donate philanthropic funds to Newark and persuaded Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to give $100 million to its school system in 2010.

He runs in celebrity circles, raising money in Silicon Valley, New York City and Los Angeles, where actor Matt Damon co-hosted a campaign fundraiser for him in September.

Despite the high-profile connections and his status as the most recognizable Democrat in New Jersey, Booker will have to adjust to being the most junior of 100 senators. Yet he is starting off his tenure with high-profile meetings Thursday with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and with President Barack Obama.

Booker formally resigned as mayor of Newark on Wednesday afternoon. It was effective at midnight Thursday.

“While I am leaving one position, I am not leaving Newark,” Booker said in his resignation letter. “I am proud to be able to now represent Newark and our entire state as a United States senator. My level of dedication, passion and service will not falter as I serve New Jersey.”

Newark City Council President Luis Quintana is expected to become interim mayor until a special election is held in May.

To ensure a smooth and orderly transition, Quintana called a council vote to officially appoint himself to the post, which was supposed to be a formality.

But half of the council failed to show up, 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reported.

“I don’t know if they went fishing, hiking or they overslept but I hope that it’s not politics,” Quintana said. “It sends a bad message across.”

Quintana has rescheduled the vote for Monday.

Booker leaves Newark with a mixed legacy. The downtown has markedly improved, with high-rise corporate headquarters, new housing and restaurants popping up and a Whole Foods supermarket scheduled to open in 2016. Parks have been cleaned up throughout the city and violent crime is down in most cases.

Many residents, however, feel that areas outside downtown have been forgotten. Vacant lots and blighted homes dot neighborhoods. The city’s unemployment rate is 14.2 percent, half of its 277,000 residents live below the poverty level and the high school dropout rate is just under 40 percent.

After Lautenberg’s death, Gov. Chris Christie appointed former Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa to fill the position until the special election. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell bade Chiesa farewell on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon.

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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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