Winners and Losers: The U.S. Senate Special Election


Cory Booker

It was much closer than panic-stricken allies would have liked, but Booker managed to eke out the double digit victory pundits and prognosticators said he would need to avoid the appearance of a split decision, black-eyed win against a shutdown-haunted, Tea Party-funded opponent.

The ‘Pundits’

Both Booker and Steve Lonegan blamed the (‘liberal’, by Lonegan’s reckoning and ‘cynical,’ according to Booker) media for misunderstanding their strains of competing Revolutionary ardor, which, while entertaining, hardly seem applicable in the mess the country faces right now.

Patrick Murray

There were a lot of somersaults in this one. What a bizarre contest. Off year election. Off day election. An ebullient twitter head with no deep organizational loyalties at the head of a crime ridden city. A casting call for the remake of Elmer Gantry. A government freeze-out. And through all those acrobatics, the Monmouth University pollster and columnist stuck the landing in his last poll before the election, calling a 10-point victory for Booker.

Essex County

Nibbled on by a dozen other smaller but opportunistic organizations, the mighty North Jersey Democratic Party stronghold looked badly damaged stumbling into Wednesday’s election, but Booker pulled off a 90,010 (78%) to 24,539 (21%) win over Lonegan in his home county, the biggest  vote total out of any county – and biggest plurality. It’s a tribute to Booker’s strength in Essex, where even the long frowning South Ward of his home city showed up to support him. Booker also performed well in the county where he grew up, Bergen – where the early absentee ballot totals convinced insiders the contest was over in Booker’s favor.

Jay Webber

Steve Lonegan did great as usual (61-38%) in the hill country of Hunterdon County, and in the land of seaside retirees in Ocean (64-35%). But Booker closed that gap in historically Republican Somerset (49-50%), Morris (43-56%) and Monmouth (45-54%), where a flinty conservative without an attendant circus atmosphere, might produce better results next year. Someone, conceivably, like Webber, a hungry young assemblyman from Morris County.

George Gilmore

Ocean remains dominant. It wasn’t big and bad enough this time to compete with Essex, but the Ocean County Republican Chairman’s county gave Lonegan a 64-35% victory and the most votes – 67,893, or almost 9,000 more than Monmouth and Bergen each – of any other county.

Mo Butler

Booker’s exceedingly patient chief of staff – the Sancho Panzo of Newark City Hall – will continue to follow the windmills-tilting Booker as statewide director for the Senator-elect.  

Pablo Fonseca

The umbilical cord is still there for the veteran Newark operative, Booker’s former chief of staff, who now acts as Newark Nosferatu for likely Acting Mayor Luis Quintana. The battle tested Fonseca has had other good news lately, with the survival in federal court of his client, West New York Mayor Felix Roque.

Kevin McCabe

The new Middlesex County Democratic Chairman saw better than expected numbers in his scandal wracked home county – a 58-41% (61,022-43,462) victory for Booker, who landed in Edison two days before Election Day and endorsed McCabe’s candidate for mayor. Lonegan had his headquarters in Metuchen and hoped to connect in Middlesex with the blue-collar, rust-belt vote. The 41-year old McCabe also earned praise from fellow chairs and operatives for his decorous handling of the backroom battle for speaker of the Assembly, uniting a county populated by elected Democratic Party officials who would sooner fold their arms and turn their backs than talk with one another.

Newark’s South Ward

The South posted the biggest ward numbers (6,400) for Booker yesterday, good news for the U.S. Senator-elect, who has struggled in Sharpe James’ home ward. These results occurred with few resources, according to Newark sources.

Luis Quintana

The local politician with nine lives, who successfully made the transition from the Gibson to the James to the Booker era, now appears to be in a strong position as council president to become the acting mayor of Newark, to occur within 30 days of Booker’s certification as U.S. Senator.

Peg Schaffer

The long-suffering chair of the Somerset County Democratic Organization came within a percentage point (49-50%) of seeing Booker tie Lonegan in the same county that went for Obama but has a classic Republican history. Schaffer has built a political relationship with Booker over many years, and it almost paid off with a Booker victory.   

South Jersey Dems

Voters in the key northern Democratic counties (Hudson, Essex, Bergen, Passaic, Middlesex and Union) produced huge numbers (358,196) for Booker, but the South, with its 138,467 votes for Booker, still has more organization to bring the northern giants to their knees in the backrooms of power. North Jersey sources immediately began jabbing from the shadows at Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), who delivered a split Gloucester County just-barely win for Booker. Sweeney told the Star-Ledger today that yesterday’s low voter turnout demonstrates the need to change the law in the event of a Senate vacancy.

Darryl Isherwood expresses best wishes to a fellow ink-stained wretch, gratitude for his three-year service as editor of PNJ, and best of luck on the next leg of this always epic voyage called journalism. Thanks.


Steve Lonegan

It’s hard to call such a savage competitor a loser, but he lost. He also lost his home town of Bogota, the one he held up as a model of carved-out excellence alongside that Booker-fashioned wreck called Newark, New Jersey. The outcome there was the same as it was for another Tea Party-branded candidate, Anna Little, who in losing to Frank Pallone in 2010, ate a loss in her hometown of Highlands. As relentless as he was, Lonegan also gave his followers a few colossal derailments, including the campaign’s arguably costly early tweet of the map of Newark, the Shaftan lunacy, and the “bodies floating in the Passiac River” quote. Still, for all that, Lonegan was vastly outspent by Booker and still made it, by force of personality, political guile, and a willingness to grapple with tough issues (Booker’s Waywire deal and payments from his former law firm) an incredibly interesting race. While many New Jerseyans may disagree with most everything Lonegan stands for, observers  came away from Lonegan’s performance respecting his focus and intensity. He was so focused, he gave his wife the brush-off in an unsettling circulating post election video.

The Tea Party

Sarah Palin may work on the frozen tundra, but not in Jersey. The presence of the bear-baiting former Alaska governor campaigning for the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate stopped some establishment Republicans in their tracks. These were Somerset County country club types who mulled over whether to take the potentially self-nullifying plunge to back the anti-establishment Lonegan before lowering their blinds at the sight of Sarah.

Lisa Ayers

The former treasurer of Mine Hill pleaded guilty today to embezzling approximately $330,000 from the Mine Hill Fire Department over a six-year period. Under her plea agreement, the state will recommend that Ayers be sentenced to five years in state prison.  She must pay $228,631 in restitution, representing the full amount stolen minus amounts previously paid back, and she will be permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey. 

David Redlawsk

In that polling head-to-head matchup between Murray and Rutgers, Monmouth U. flattened the august polling institute with a dead eye on the numbers. Rutgers-Eagleton said Booker would win by over 20 points.

Newark’s North Ward

The powerful county-connected organization was off pace of its usual dominance, falling short of a projected 7,000 votes to nestle in around 5,000. That wouldn’t be so bad given off-year dynamics, except that the north enjoyed more resources – including GOTV driven firemen – than the south, which still outperformed its cross city rival. 

Sheila Oliver

The speaker lost a key supporter for speaker in Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-22), who publicly backed Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-32) when it became apparent that Oliver lacked the necessary votes to win. Winners and Losers: The U.S. Senate Special Election