A special election to complete the term of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) was won by Newark Mayor Corey Booker (D-NJ). Republican candidate Steve Lonegan could not overcome Booker’s name recognition, a Democrat-leaning state electorate and a campaign cash deficit.
The margin of victory was perhaps closer than expected but still in double digits as Booker captured 55% of the vote to Lonegan’s 44%. As is typical of special elections, turnout was said to be on the low side.
Booker was a tireless advocate for broadcast media that placed its focus on the citizens of the state, particularly on the television side. The state exists in the shadow of two major media markets, New York to the northeast and Philadelphia to the southwest and lacks a Nielsen DMA to call its own.
The major target of Lautenberg’s disgruntlement has been Fox Television’s WWOR Secaucus NJ, which he said focuses on New York rather than serving New Jersey residents who dwell within its contour.
Many with a vested interest in New Jersey broadcasting will be watching to see if Booker accepts the baton from Lautenberg and carries the campaign forward.
Paul Rotella, the President/CEO of the New Jersey Broadcasters Association, was quick to get a congratulatory message out to the Senator-elect and to make the case for his organization. He stated, “This week, the Garden State elected Newark Mayor Cory Booker to fill the unexpired term of Senator Frank Lautenberg, who passed away earlier this year. The NJBA congratulated our new Senator on his impressive victory. In a letter to Senator Booker, NJBA President Paul Rotella wrote: “For over 90 years, New Jersey’s Broadcasters have been an indispensable component of our state’s social fabric. I am most proud of the unparalleled commitment to public service that the broadcast industry has maintained since its very beginning, especially evidenced in the crucial role broadcasters’ consistently play in keeping people informed during severe weather events like Superstorm Sandy, and in times of local and national emergency. No other business is so public spirited and essential to the success of liberty, justice and prosperity. Our mutual and dear friend, the late Senator Frank Lautenberg, was the best friend broadcasters ever had in the Senate, and I am looking forward to working with you and your staff in the years ahead to expand on his legacy and to maintain this impressive tradition. Like you, New Jersey Broadcasters are eager to be a part of the solution to the many challenging opportunities posed by the current economic and political climate. Please feel free to call upon your New Jersey broadcasters to help you as we move forward…” The NJBA looks forward to working with Senator Booker, and our entire Congressional delegation, as we offer Senator Booker our heartfelt best wishes as he journeys to Washington on behalf of the people of the great state of New Jersey.”
Booker’s election gives the Senate Democratic contingent the 10-vote advantage (counting two independents who caucus with the party) that it had prior to Lautenberg’s death. In the interim, Republican Governor Chris Christie appointed Jeffrey Chiesa (R-NJ) to the seat, briefly reducing the margin to nine votes.