Newark Mayor Cory Booker (Michael Bocchieri/Getty Images)

(The Root) — Just days before New Jersey voters are slated to head to the polls in a special election to select a new senator, Democratic front-runner Cory Booker canceled campaign appearances late Thursday to mourn the death of his father.

Cary A. Booker passed away Thursday after a recent stroke, according to a news release sent to The Root by the city of Newark. He was 76. He and his wife, Carolyn, lived in Las Vegas.

The elder Booker, credited with inspiring his son's political career, was born Dec. 10, 1936, and moved to New Jersey in 1969, the release says. He spent most of his professional career at IBM and was married for 49 years.

"Many people in our city came to know and love Cary Booker," the statement says. "Mayor Booker's father was an inspiration to him, and someone the mayor has often credited with being a principal reason for him entering public service."

Booker has canceled public events to spend time with his family and close friends during his time of grief, the statement says. He is the apparent front-runner against Tea Party challenger Steve Lonegan in the special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat of the late Frank Lautenberg. Voters are scheduled to head to the polls Oct. 16.