The mayor of Newark, New Jersey Cory Booker, who is the Democratic nominee in the state’s US Senate special election has surprised some this week amid speculation about his sexuality.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Booker said: “People who think I’m gay, some part of me thinks it’s wonderful because I want to challenge people on their homophobia… 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.’”

He was asked on Wednesday by a Star-Ledger reporter to clarify his point, to which he responded: “It should not matter,” he said. “That was my point.” He said he was to focus on the Senate race against former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, the Republican nominee.

No stranger to rumours around his sexuality, Booker is 44 and unmarried.

Lonegan said: “I don’t really care about this guy’s lifestyle… I care about his failed record in Newark.” In a different interview, Lonegan accused Booker of “acting ambigious” 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.”

“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 election is planned for October, and is to replace the late Frank Lautenberg. Booker is favourite to win in the state which has not elected a Republican to the Senate in over 40 years. Booker would also be New Jersey’s first black Senator.