Newark Mayor Cory Booker won a special and somewhat bruising election to the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, filling the term of late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, the Associated Press projected.
Booker, who has established a national profile with the help of social media and a number of Hollywood figures, had a substantial lead over Republican Steve Lonegan. Booker will face reelection against next year.
Booker relied heavily on showbiz support for his campaign, trekking to Los Angeles for a number of fundraisers including an event in April at the home of Jerry Weintraub that had an enviable number of politically active showbiz figures among its co-hosts, including Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Bob Iger and Michael Lynton. Last month, Ron Burkle hosted a fundraiser for Booker at his Beverly Hills estate, in an event co-hosted by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.
While Lonegan mocked Booker’s frequent tweeting, saying in a debate that Newark needed a “leader, not a tweeter,” the benefits of social media for Booker far outweighed any disadvantage, as he entered the race a rising star among the Democratic party who was already well known in key donor bases. As of mid-summer, Booker had raised $232,330 from show biz sources, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, among the top industries giving to his campaign.
Where Booker did run into some trouble was when his prolific tweets became a minor campaign issue, after it was revealed that one of the figures he had exchanged Twitter messages with with a stripper from Oregon.
Booker also divested his interest in a startup Internet video aggregation venture, WayWire, that came under scrutiny after a New York Times story on how he recruited top tech executives and even Oprah Winfrey to give seed money, raising questions of whether their support was because he is a rising political figure.
Booker planned appearances on “Morning Joe” and other morning shows on Thursday.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, took note that Booker was declared the winner just as the House was preparing to vote on a bill to reopen the government and avert a default on U.S. debt, saying that it was a rejection of a “destructive Tea Party agenda.” Lonegan was endorsed by Tea Party figures like Sarah Palin.