NEWARK, N.J., Aug. 28 (UPI) -- Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker, the Democratic nominee in the state's U.S. Senate special election, gave an ambiguous response when asked if he is gay.
"People who think I'm gay, some part of me thinks it's wonderful because I want to challenge people on their homophobia," Booker told The Washington Post in an interview published Monday. "I love seeing on Twitter when someone says I'm gay, and I say, 'So what does it matter if I am? So be it.'"
When a reporter for his hometown paper, The Star-Ledger, questioned him Wednesday, Booker said he plans to focus on issues important to New Jersey in his race against former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, the Republican nominee.
"It should not matter," he said. "That was my point."
Booker, at 44, is unmarried and rumors about his sexual orientation have been surfaced since he entered the political arena. He is in many ways an ascetic who does not drink or eat meat and lived for several years in a Newark public housing project.
Lonegan told the Star-Ledger he does not believe Booker's sex life should be an issue.
"I don't really care about this guy's lifestyle," he said. "I care about his failed record in Newark."
He told the right-wing website Newsmax Booker may be "acting ambiguous" to attract gay voters.
"It's kind of weird," Lonegan said. "As a guy, I personally like being a guy. I don't know if you saw the stories last year. They've been out for quite a bit about how he likes to go out at 3 o'clock in the morning for a manicure and a pedicure."
He said the nocturnal manicures had been described as Booker's "peculiar fetish."
"I have a more peculiar fetish," Lonegan said. "I like a good Scotch and a cigar. That's my fetish but we'll just compare the two."
The special election to replace the late Frank Lautenberg is scheduled for October. Booker is widely favored to win in a state that has not elected a Republican to the Senate in more than 40 years.
If he wins, Booker will be New Jersey's first black senator and the first from the northeast since Ed Brooke, R-Mass., who served from 1967 to 1979.