In victory speech, Booker pledges to unite Dems, cautions Republican opponent

Newark Mayor Cory Booker framed himself has a uniting figure in a Tuesday night victory speech that called upon his opponents in the New Jersey Senate Democratic primary to come together to support his candidacy. 

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“They are our champions, too,” he said of Reps. Rush Holt and Frank Pallone and state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver.

“We are no longer opponents, we are allies. We are together," he added.

Booker emerged victorious from a relatively sleepy Democratic primary in which he never dropped below a 30-point lead in every poll of the race.

The Democratic nominee entered the Senate race having fostered bad blood among some New Jersey Democrats for what they saw as a disrespectful choice to announce his intentions to run for Senate even before now-deceased Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) had indicated whether he'd retire.

Despite the ruffled feathers, however, his Democratic opponents largely avoided direct attacks on the front-runner, and landed few damaging punches in the shortened primary campaign. Booker's call for unity among the party, however, was an implicit acknowledgement that rifts could still remain.

Speaking to The Hill on Monday, the day before the polls opened for the primary, both Holt and Oliver declined to commit to endorsing the eventual nominee.

Holt, however, said in his concession speech that he called Booker to congratulate him and "to tell him I intend to help [him win in the general] in October."

Holt, who had characterized himself as the only true progressive in the race and criticized Booker's stance on Democratic policies, went on to offer lukewarm praise of the party's nominee, calling Booker "a unique voice in Democratic politics and enormously popular around the entire country."

Booker is heavily favored to win in the October general election against Republican nominee Steve Lonegan, whom Booker called in his victory speech "a person of strong beliefs and even stronger rhetoric." 

“He puts out his fists, I’m gonna extend a hand,” Booker pledged. “He wants to be a flamethrower, I’m gonna be a bridge builder.”

"Please know this about me," he added, "I will match his negative attacks with positive vision.”

Lonegan, known for his tendency toward campaign gaffes that take him off-message for days, has already come under attack from one Democratic super-PAC, which released a video on Tuesday night highlighting some of his more controversial comments shortly after he won the primary. 

Booker pledged, in his victory speech, to be a uniting figure not just in New Jersey but in the Senate overall.

“The power of the people is greater than the people in power. The people united can never be divided. American history is a glorious testimony to people coming together. ... In Newark, we know it’s not naïve to come together to get things done.

"Make me your senator, New Jersey," he said, to applause. "I will be unwavering in my focus on finding common ground. I will not be concerned with right or left but going forward.”

He also promised to work on raising the minimum wage, passing equal-pay legislation and promoting lawful same-sex marriage.

The man who has been compared by some to another transformative figure in Democratic politics, Presiden Obama, who characterized himself as an unconventional Washington outsider.

“I will not rely on convention,” Booker said. “If you want somebody in Washington who simply plays by the same old rules, you should find someone else."

Lonegan wasted no time in knocking his opponent, slamming Booker in his victory speech as the candidate "anointed by Hollywood" and the choice of "Silicon Valley moguls" who want to give California a third senator by electing Booker, both lines he's used on the campaign trail before.

He pledged to emphasize personal freedom and push to repeal ObamaCare, and dismissed polling of the race, which has shown him trailing Booker.

"We know what we believe in," he said. "We're going to say what we believe, and when we go to Washington, D.C., we are going to do what we say."


—This report was updated at 11:03 p.m.

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