Democrat Cory Booker beat Republican Steve Lonegan by about 10 points yesterday to win a U.S. Senate seat—or, as Slate’s Dave Weigel put it, “America’s most-hyped mayor” defeated “one of the most entertaining jerks in American politics.”
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, the New York Timeshad Newark Mayor Booker at 54.6 percent to Lonegan’s 44.3 percent. That put him at the lower end of the 53-to-59-percent range for Democratic nominees in the eight presidential and senatorial races here since 2000. (The GOP has done better in governor’s races, as Chris Christie can tell you.)
In yesterday’s special election to replace the late Frank Lautenberg, Booker won the same counties that John Kerry carried in 2004, losing the two (Salem and Somerset) that had flipped to Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Statewide, Booker ran about four points behind Obama’s 2012 performance, but he was 11 points behind in Cumberland County (which borders Delaware), 9 points behind in Somerset (including New York City exurbs), and 8 points behind in Atlantic (which includes Atlantic City).
What kept Lonegan from getting close were the counties closest to New York City, whose media outlets have been covering Booker as a rising political star for almost a decade. He got 79 percent in Hoboken’s Hudson County and 78 percent in Newark’s Essex County, coming within half a point of Obama’s 2012 showing in both places.
The best long-term news for the Democrats was mostly suburban Bergen County—which includes Bogata, where Lonegan served as mayor. Booker got 57 percent there, running almost two points ahead of Obama in 2012 and doing better than any Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson. Bergen was a Republican stronghold through about 1990 (when Democratic Sen. Bill Bradley lost it to Christine Todd Whitman while winning statewide); for the next couple of decades, it consistently came within a point or two of the statewide average. If yesterday is any indication, Bergen County, which includes such communities as Fort Lee and Hackensack, is getting more Democratic than New Jersey itself. That fits the long-term national pattern of older, more dense suburbs becoming more Democratic, with the GOP prevailing in smaller but faster-growing exurbs.