NEWARK, N.J. — With his election to the U.S. Senate, Newark Mayor Cory Booker faces the question of how he will translate to Washington his celebrity status, frequent travel and penchant for replying on Twitter to low-level requests from constituents.
Booker, who beat Republican Steve Lonegan in a special election Tuesday, is moving from the top of the executive branch, albeit at a local level, to being one of 100 senators. That means he has to get used to shaping coalitions rather than being the boss, New Jersey's other senator, Robert Menendez, said in an interview.
"The biggest challenge for Cory will be the executive powers that he had to pursue the direction of a whole administration versus the legislative process that obviously requires cobbling together or bringing together an amalgam of people," said Menendez, himself the former mayor of Union City. "That will be a lot harder."
Booker, 44, has his own brand of fame unusual for a mayor of a city the size of Newark, and it has drawn criticism. He will be finishing the term of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, whose family endorsed one of Booker's challengers in the Democratic primary, labeling Booker a "show horse" rather than the "workhorse" they called Lautenberg.
The senator-elect insisted he knows what changes lies ahead.
"I know what bipartisanship can do," Booker said Thursday after an event where he and Republican Gov. Chris Christie broke ground for a development in Newark. "I've built a career on that and I look forward to bringing that down to Washington."
During his victory speech, Booker rattled off a list of progressive issues where he said there is "work to do": equal pay for women, same-sex marriage, access to college for everyone, defending and implementing the health care overhaul.
Booker said on morning talk shows Thursday that he plans to bring his hands-on experience as a mayor to Washington, and he has touted his work with Christie and bringing together disparate stakeholders to improve Newark.
Another skill of his, fundraising acumen, is likely to be welcomed by Democrats in Washington. Booker got Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to donate $100 million to Newark's schools.
Booker will have to raise money for himself, too. He will be up for re-election in November 2014 and is likely to face more competition. Menendez said he believes many more Republicans will want to run in a traditional election year rather than during a special election.
"He'll likely have a more substantial challenger next time," Menendez said. Booker beat Lonegan by 11 percentage points.
The time he'll spend campaigning and fundraising makes one of his new office's most prized commodities — time in the Senate — more difficult to come by.
"For the next year he's going to be on a bit of a marathon as he both gets his office up, represents the people of the state, picks a couple of issues he thinks are important to New Jerseyans and runs for re-election," Menendez said.
President Barack Obama said he's happy Booker is heading south. Booker said the two are friends.
"He's going to do a great job," Obama said.
Booker said he's ready to take on a fractured Washington.
"I'm going into the Senate," he said Thursday on WNYW's "Good Day New York." ''If I break dishes on the way to try to serve the people of New Jersey, so be it."