Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark and front-running candidate to replace the late Frank Lautenberg in the U.S. Senate, finally addressed gay rumors which have dogged him for much of his political career in an interview with the Washington Post.

Booker, who has always been intensely private about his personal life, stopped short of confirming or denying whether he is homosexual, but appears to imply that he isn’t.

“…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. I hope you are not voting for me because you are making the presumption that I’m straight.’ ”

When Booker first ran for mayor of Newark against incumbent Sharpe James in 2002 a whisper campaign spread gossip about the Democrat’s sexual preferences. This bitter campaign was documented in the 2005 documentary Street Fight.

Booker, who is poised to become the first African-American to represent New Jersey in the Senate and only the sixth black politician elected to the chamber, once wrote about his own struggle to stop being homophobic against the LGBT in his college newspaper.

In 1992, in a column entitled “Pointing the Finger at Gays”, Booker wrote: “I sheepishly shook hands with gays or completely shielded away from physical contact. I still remember how my brow would often unconsciously furrow when I was with gays, as thoughts would flash in my mind, ‘What sinners I am amongst’ or ‘How unnatural these people are.’”

By the end of his piece, Booker softened both his tone and view on LGBT people.

“I will never point a finger when the finger is best pointed at me. Also, occasionally I still find myself acting defensively if someone thinks I am gay or sometimes I remain silent when others slam or slander. These realizations hurt me deeply. I must continue to struggle for personal justice. This is my most important endeavor.”