Obama Endorses Booker in U.S. Senate Race in N.J.

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -

President Barack Obama has issued a formal endorsement of Democrat Cory Booker, a longtime friend, in New Jersey’s special U.S. Senate race.

Newark Mayor Booker, Obama said, will be “an important partner in our efforts to reduce gun violence, give every American a fair shot in a global economy, and make our country stronger.”

“His passion for his city has helped create new jobs and attract some of America’s top businesses to Newark,” he said.

Booker said he was humbled by the endorsement. If elected in a special election Oct. 16, “I will go to the Senate to advance our shared vision of a nation where opportunity is available to anyone willing to work for it,” he said.

Booker, now Newark’s mayor, faces former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, a former state director of the anti-tax group Americans for Prosperity who was endorsed Tuesday by Gov. Chris Christie.

Lonegan said the Obama endorsement was no surprise. Booker is a “rubber stamp for the Obama agenda,” he said.

This is not Obama’s first foray into special election races. He also waded into the special U.S. Senate race in June in Massachusetts, endorsing Democrat Edward Markey, who was elected to succeed John Kerry.

In his endorsement of Lonegan, a fierce rival of his in a 2009 gubernatorial primary, Christie said he was “proud” to have him as the Republican candidate.

“Steve, as usual, ran the type of spirited, principled campaign that he has been known for his entire professional career in the primary,” Christie told a crowd sandwiched into a long room where the air conditioning was not working.

Lonegan faces an uphill challenge in the race against Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark and a rising Democratic star who’s better-known to voters. He’s also a friend and occasional political ally of Christie, who had been expected to endorse Lonegan but otherwise mostly stay out of the race. But Christie tried to put to rest speculation that he would do little else to aid Lonegan.

“This will not be the only time Steve Lonegan and I will be together between now and Oct. 16,” Christie said. “The apparatus of the Republican Party is going to be behind Steve Lonegan.”

A poll released Tuesday has Booker leading by 16 percentage points. In Christie’s reelection race, while losing some ground to opponent state Sen. Barbara Buono, he still tops the Democrat by 20 points.