What You Need to Know About New Jersey’s Senate Special Election

On Wednesday, October 16, the state of New Jersey will be having a special election to pick a new senator. Some are calling the election a harbinger of what we could see during the 2014 midterms. Others see the results as a foregone conclusion and say there will be no bearing on what could occur in the next election cycle.

Here’s everything you need to know to get caught up on the race so far:

Why is there a special election? The race is to fill the seat of Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg, who passed away this June. Sen. Lautenberg’s seat is currently being filled by a Republican who was appointed by Republican Governor Chris Christie. Should a Democrat win, that would change the dynamics from 52 Democrats, 46 Republicans and 2 Independents to 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans and 2 Independents, causing little change in how the body votes overall (both Independents currently vote Democrat, making party line votes a 54-46 split, which would change to either 55-45 or remain the same).

Isnt New Jersey already having an election on November 5th? Why are they having a separate one 3 weeks earlier? Because of the rules surrounding special elections, Gov. Christie could choose either to allow a special election or have a senate election at the same time as the state’s governor’s race. Speculation is that the Governor, who is believed to be considering a 2016 presidential run, wanted to ensure an easy victory over his own Democratic opponent, and didn’t want an additional race on the ballot that could bring more Democrats to the polls.

Who is running? Newark Mayor Cory Booker has the Democratic nomination, while Republican Steve Lonegan is the GOP nominee. Lonegan, a former mayor, is strongly supported by the Tea Party, whereas Booker has been allied with many of the established Democratic organizations.

Who is winning? With one day left, it still seems pretty likely that Booker will win the race, something that has been a given for most of the campaign. Depending on which poll you look at, Booker is leading by anywhere from 10 to 22 points. Lonegan has been trying to pull that number down recently with the arrival of Tea Party superstar Sarah Palin in the state, where she has begun stumping on his behalf. Impact-wise, she doesn’t appear to be making much of a difference.

So how about the mud? Oh yes, this has been a pretty scandalous race so far, or, at least, it attempted to be. At one point the big rage was that Cory Booker was gay. Later, it was that he DMed on Twitter with a stripper. Finally, it was that he must be gay again since he didn’t send enough messages to the stripper.

The last ditch attempt at an October surprise? A claim that the mayor of Newark doesn’t actually live in Newark and hasn’t for a year. The evidence? Someone peeked into his windows and the place looked empty. Booker’s campaign solidly dismissed the allegations as a last minute smear attack.

Does this races results mean anything in 2014? No. The only way that this could possibly be a bellweather of the 2014 election is if Lonegan wins, which is simply implausible. If a Tea Party, far right-wing politician manages to pull off a come-from-behind victory over a Democrat who led him by nearly 30 points in June, while the Republican party is in the midst of shutting down the entire federal government and considering defaulting on the debt ceiling to collapse the world economy, then heaven help us all, because that means there will not be a single Democratic victory in any state in 2014. Even California.

At best, the Republican party will be able to state that Booker should have won by more and didn’t, and declare it a victory. Meanwhile, one seat will flip, having little impact on the entire body of the senate itself, but potentially making it harder for Republicans to take control once the votes are counted in November 2014.


Photo credit: wikimedia commons


Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Cathleen K.
Cathleen K4 years ago

I live in the tristate area, and this whole 'Corey Booker is gay' meme says tons about the GOP and zip about Booker, who DEFINATELY is not gay, though I loved the fact that he refused to clarify that for the national audience who don't know him like us 'homies' do. It was enough to raise money from the Koch brothers and to get Sarah Palin to show up - it's shocking that anyone, even SP herself, thought that might help in NJ! But hey, Christie knew what WOULD help - scheduling an election on a Wednesday!!! and sending robocalls to Democrats that it was on a Tuesday, as they expected. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why Jerseyites like this bully who cut taxes for the rich while raising them on everybody else and then spent millions on an unnecessary separate election to make his own numbers look better. He's a 'gavone' - but then again, so was Tony Soprano! Booker only won by 10 points, when he should have won by 25, as he will in the rematch.

The best thing about this race? Booker only spent a million in the most expensive media market in the country, so he's got a formidable war chest with which to help other Democrats next year. I wonder how much this loss cost the Koch brothers?

Natasha Salgado
Past Member 4 years ago

Thank you

Franck Rio
Past Member 4 years ago


Karen Chestney
Karen Chestney4 years ago

Well---it's all over in NJ---& Sen. Cory Booker WON !!! Thanks for the article .

Liliana Garcia
Liliana G4 years ago

Thanks for the info. It doesn't do any good for his opponent to be backed by someone like Sarah Palin whose intelligence..., well, let's just leave the rest of the sentence blank, no pun intended. On the other hand if Robert K's comment is an accurate depiction then... it's almost a no win situation.

Janis K.
Janis K4 years ago

CONGRATULATIONS!!! Cory Booker wins.

Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Linda Tonner
Linda Tonner4 years ago

So what if he IS gay? Why does anyone care, as long as he's not stalking your husband? Highly doubtful. In any case isn't running into a burning building and saving someone enough to make him a worthwhile human being?