Newark Mayor Cory Booker has been declared the winner of New Jersey's special Senate election by the Associated Press.

Steve Lonegan delivers his concession speech
Steve Lonegan delivers his concession speech (News 12 New Jersey)

With 85% of the votes counted the Democrat has been declared the winner with a 55%-44% lead over Republican Steve Lonegan and will fill the term left on the seat long held by the late Frank Lautenberg until the end of 2014.

Lonegan delivered a concession speech at Bridgewater Manor thanking veterans he met during the campaign, his campaign workers, and support from Governor Chris Christie and Sarah Palin for making the race closer than predicted. "The big Washington power groups and consultants said we couldn’t win. Well maybe if they hadn’t played a role in this election, we would have won. But we rode this election near victory on the backs of giants, and that’s you guys." Lonegan said he will be returning to the private sector.

Lonegan told AP he has no plans to challenge Booker next year or seek any elected office again.

Newly elected U.S. Senator Cory Booker speaks after winning a special election
Newly elected U.S. Senator Cory Booker speaks after winning a special election (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

A few moments later Booker took the stage at the NJPAC to accept the win, as Giants defensive linesman Justin Tuck told the crowd ""There's no place that I'd rather be tonight than right here with you" thanks to the win. The new  Senator-elect gave a speech and spoke of the unity of the American people. He says he's going to Washington "to engage in the kind of hard, humble service that reaches out to others" and enot engage in "shallow politics."

He choked up for a moment when recalling his father who passed away less than a week ago. "I wish he was here physically," Booker said. "But I know he is here in spirit."

Booker began his speech by recalling the late Senator Lautenberg. "He was great because he built not only a great American businessman, but he also served our country with honor and distinction, in war as well as peace, from the U.S. Army to the United States Senate. We are a better state — we are a better nation — because of his station. For me, to even finish his term makes tonight's honor even greater for me personally."

After learning of his win, Booker sent out a tweet soon after the AP called the race thanking voters for the win.

Democrat gubernatorial Barbara Buono told News 12 New Jersey she was "jubilant" at the win.

State Senate President Steve Sweeney was quick to react. "New Jersey’s voters today sent a clear message that they want a U.S Senator who will work in a bi-partisan fashion and get things done in Washington," said Sweeney in a statement. "Cory Booker’s big victory tonight is a direct repudiation of the radical policies of the Tea-Party obstructionists who have hijacked our government.  I look forward to working with Senator Booker as we fight for marriage equality, increasing the minimum wage, making college affordable for everyone and getting women equal pay for equal work."

Booker will take office before the November 5th election. “The winner of (Wednesday’s) election will be sworn in as quickly as possible after the results have been verified and certified. We fully anticipate this to happen before the Nov. 5th election day,” said a statement from Gov. Christie’s office according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Booker, whose father died a week ago, was the leader in the polls leading to the election although Lonegan managed to narrow the gap by drawing attention to Newark's murder rate, his frequent trips out of town and private Twitter messages with a Portland, Oregon stripper. Lonegan tried to make Booker's sexual preference a campaign issue but he would not directly answer the question.

Jeff Chiesa, New Jersey's attorney general appointed by Christie to fill the Senate seat until the special election will have recorded the fourth shortest tenure of the 65 U.S. Senators to serve in New Jersey history.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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