Cory Booker Dominates New Jersey's Democratic Senate Primary

The Newark mayor is widely expected to win the Senate seat in the fall.

Posted: 08/14/2013 08:30 AM EDT

Despite what they may think of him, Cory Booker's opponents in New Jersey's U.S. Senate race would likely love to be walking in his shoes about now. The Newark mayor won Tuesday's primary race with a 40 point lead over his nearest competitor, and is expected to handily win the the seat made vacant by the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg in September.

In his victory speech, Booker pledged to bring a new style of politics to Washington, NBC News reports.

"They say we're being naiive, to them I say have you ever met us, do you know where I've been working for seven years," he said. "This is Newark, New Jersey, and we don't do naiive."

Throughout the primary race, Booker had all of the advantages: $4 million in the bank; name recognition and an enviable lead in the polls. But that doesn't mean no one is gunning for him.

Last week, a staffer for Republican Steve Lonegan, who he will face in the general election next month, posted on Twitter Booker's "foreign policy debate prep notes" that included a map of Newark neighborhoods labeled according to ethnicity, such as West Africa, Guyana and Portugal. The tweet, which Lonegan deemed "childish," has been deleted.

Democratic state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, the only other African-American candidate in the race and trailing badly in the polls, says she's more experienced and qualified than Booker and the other Democratic rivals.

"While Mayor Booker has been the mayor of a city, it is a city of 275,000 people. He has only had to deal with a governing body of nine council members," she told NJ Spotlight. "As a legislative leader, I have dealt with 119 other legislators coming from both parties and all regions of the state. I have had to deal with a governor and a governor's administration. I've had to go through the process of crafting and approving bills and moving an agenda forward. I don't think…the other three candidates have had that same experience that I have had."

The conservative Daily Caller website on Aug. 11 alleged that Booker, in a college newspaper column, admitted groping a female friend when he was 15 years old.

Questions about the mayor's personal finances also have arisen, including involvement in the Internet startup Waywire that has posed ethical questions, reported by The New York Times, and a New York Post article about payments Booker as mayor has continued to receive from his former law firm, which has earned fees during his tenure from local agencies.

"It brings [Booker] down to earth, and it makes him much more of a typical politician,” Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray told MSNBC. “That’s certainly not going to hurt him in being victorious in November, but it takes some of the shine off.”

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(Photo: REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz)

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