Cory Booker, the popular mayor of Newark, New Jersey, moved one big step closer to becoming the first African-American to represent his state in the U.S. Senate yesterday, when he won the Democratic primary by a wide margin. The vote, called to fill the unexpired term of recently deceased Sen. Frank Lautenberg, will see Booker compete against Republican primary winner Steve Lonegan, in an October 16 special election.
Booker, 44, has served as mayor of New Jersey’s largest city since 2006, and is known as a progressive leader, who has played a proactive role in implementing reforms in his city. In a show of solidarity with Newark’s poor, he lived for a week on a food-stamp budget, reduced his own mayoral salary twice, and punctuated his reputation as a community man by, among other things, rescuing a neighbor from her burning home, and welcoming victims of Hurricane Sandy into his own residence.
Booker has also been an outspoken supporter of the LGBT community, vowing that “Until I can marry people equally, I shouldn’t be marrying them at all.” Newark has seen an upswing in its gay population over the past ten years, with a new LGBT Community Center opening on Halsey Street, and gay-owned businesses appearing near Washington Park. Booker has emphasized gay rights, even making the red “equality” symbol his Twitter profile picture earlier this year.
The mayor stressed his commitment to his constituents at a victory speech last night. ”If you want someone in Washington who plays by the same old rules, find someone else. I’m going to the Senate the sane way I came to Newark, determined to be a positive force, to be innovative, to be creative, to do what’s necessary to create progress.” Booker’s campaign attracted some high-profile supporters, among them Oprah Winfrey and Facebook mogul Mark Zuckerberg.
With 70% of precincts reporting, Mayor Booker carried 75 percent of the vote, far ahead of his nearest rival, Frank Pallone.