(USA TODAY) -- Cory Booker moved a step closer to becoming New Jersey's first African-American U.S. senator Tuesday when voters gave the Newark mayor a wide victory in the Democratic primary.
Booker will face Republican Steve Lonegan, former mayor of Bogota, N.J., in a special election October 16. Lonegan cruised to a big primary victory Tuesday over Alieta Eck, a first-time candidate.
Turnout was low for the special election, which was necessitated by the death of Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg in June at age 89.
Booker leveraged his national name into prodigious fundraising: with the help of friends like Oprah Winfrey and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, he brought in more than $8.6 million, well ahead of his rivals. Booker defeated two members of the state's congressional delegation, Reps. Frank Pallone and Rush Holt, as well as Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver.
"This is our victory - thank you. Please continue to run with me," Booker tweeted to his 1.4 million Twitter followers shortly after he was declared the winner.
Booker argued that his high profile would allow him to be more effective in Washington. "I find ways to break through the noise of the country and more effectively advocate and get things done," he told the Asbury Park Press last month.
In his victory speech, Booker promised his supporters that if elected to the Senate, "I will not rely on convention." He added, "I'm going to the Senate the same 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."
Lonegon said in his victory speech in Secaucus Tuesday night that Booker was "anointed by Hollywood" and the candidate of "Silicon Valley moguls" who want to make him California's third U.S. senator, the Associated press reported.
Booker, 44, was the front-runner from the moment he indicated in December that he wanted to run - even before Lautenberg had declared whether he intended to run for re-election. Lautenberg ultimately said he would not run, then died in June, setting up the special election. Booker's choice to run for Senate disappointed Democrats who hoped he would take on popular Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who is up for re-election in November.