A 37-year-old former city councilman triumphed in his bid to be Newark’s first new mayor in two decades, a win that marks a shift in black leadership for a city trying to turn around decades of urban decay.
Cory Booker swamped his nearest challenger, state Sen. Ronald L. Rice, taking 72 percent of the vote compared with 24 percent for Rice in the nonpartisan election. He takes office July 1.
In other races Tuesday, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman won the Republican primary to keep his office, and Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia took an easy step toward re-election.
Heineman held off Rep. Tom Osborne, former football coach at the University of Nebraska. With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Heineman received 50 percent of the vote to Osborne’s 44. Heineman next faces attorney David Hahn, the Democratic winner.
Osborne tried to keep upbeat when addressing supporters. “I can remember a few bowl games where nobody clapped that loud,” he said to his supporters. “I’m sorry we didn’t get it done. I really feel bad.”
In Newark, Booker said his priorities will include public safety, economic development, nurturing youth and restoring high ethical standards at City Hall.
“I’m very excited by the results and encouraged by what the people of Newark said,” said Booker, a Yale Law School graduate and former Stanford University football player. “Maybe people will stop saying that I’m ’up and coming’ and the future will be now.”
Booker was part of the city’s rough-and-tumble campaign in 2002 that drew federal observers on Election Day and became the subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary, aptly called “Street Fight.”
Mayor Sharpe James, 70, who has been Newark’s mayor for 20 years, accused him of being a Republican and not black enough to lead the city, where a majority of its 280,000 residents are black. James won that race.
Voters seemed to reject the legacy of James in the candidacy of Rice, a longtime Newark politician endorsed by the mayor. All three men are black and many residents said the result signaled a shift in leadership.
“Newark needs a change,” said Ellie Morton, a retired postal worker. “Cory Booker is young and he’ll bring in a change.”
Also in New Jersey, Trenton Mayor Doug Palmer, who sailed to re-election in two previous campaigns, earned a far narrower victory, returning to City Hall for a fifth term with 52.6 percent of the vote.
In Nebraska’s GOP primary for Senate, Pete Ricketts, former chief operating officer of the online brokerage Ameritrade, spent $4.75 million of his own money and defeated former Attorney General Don Stenberg and lawyer David Kramer. Ricketts will face Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson, who is seeking a second term.
In the race for state treasurer, Navy-hero Shane Osborn beat incumbent Ron Ross by 63 percent compared to 37 percent. “We all know the power of incumbency,” Osborn said. “We didn’t expect that.”
Osborn came to fame in 2001 when his spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet over the South China Sea. Osborn landed his plane with 23 crew members and then endured 11 days of captivity and interrogation.
In West Virginia, Byrd, 88, easily defeated token Democratic opposition from musician and political novice Bill Hendricks Jr. Byrd is seeking his ninth term.
“The trust my fellow West Virginians have placed in me is truly humbling, and you can bet I will work very hard to earn the continued support of Democrats and Republicans alike,” Byrd said in a statement.
With 96 percent of precincts reporting, Byrd had 86 percent to Hendricks’ 14 percent. In November, Byrd will faces Republican businessman John Raese, who said he plans to work even harder to beat Byrd.
“The race to me is all about the future,” Raese said. “We need to change the way we operate to be competitive in the world. I have to demonstrate to West Virginians that I have a better plan than Senator Byrd does.”