New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker announced Friday he’s seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination for president.
Booker jumped into the race by emailing supporters with an announcement video.
NJ.com, the state’s largest news website, called Booker one of the Democratic Party’s most dynamic speakers with the strong ability to rally people to causes. His defining moments on the Senate judiciary committee in the hearings to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was cheered by liberals and jeered by Republicans.
Booker, 49, will probably be a favorite among party loyalists. While mayor of Newark, Booker turned down a position in President Barack Obama’s administration, backed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election and supported fellow New Jersey U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez during his corruption trial and re-election bid.
Those leaning more to the left, though, have complained that Booker is too cozy with Wall Street and Silicon Valley — and that he only ran for the Senate to get to the White House. Booker’s relentless questioning of Kavanaugh in September, though, won some of those critics back.
Booker was tagged as a moderate Democrat while on Newark’s municipal council when he first entered politics, something that was used against him in his first run at Newark mayor, a race he lost in 2002 to long-time African-American incumbent Sharpe James. That campaign turned nasty, and saw James accuse Booker of not being “black enough,” an accusation that stung the son of two civil rights activists from North Carolina. The campaign became the subject of the Oscar-nominated documentary Street Fight.
Even after becoming mayor, Booker had more moderate leanings, supporting school vouchers and Bain Capital when the Obama campaign criticized Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for his connection with the hedge fund during the 2012 presidential campaign.
Since joining the Senate in 2013, Booker’s record has become more liberal, showing support for affirmative action, same-sex marriage, a single-payer health care system and women’s rights.
He reached across the aisle to work on criminal sentencing reform with Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, only to be called out by Paul’s wife in October. She charged Booker suggested violence acts against her husband and other Republicans in the fight over Kavanaugh. Booker said his comments cited by Paul’s wife were taken out of context by conservative outlets.
President Donald Trump has already targeted Booker, claiming he ran Newark into the ground and even revived a false report that Booker didn’t live in the city at the time. Booker is still a resident of Newark, and current mayor Ras Baraka credits Booker with the city’s current turnaround.
“The momentum begun by Sen. Cory Booker when he was mayor and his continued effective work to deliver for Newark,” Baraka said. “If Donald Trump thinks otherwise, he should come to Newark and see the amazing things happening here with his own eyes.”
Booker, who many has compared to Obama, is in his first full term as a senator, the first African-American to represent New Jersey in the chamber. Obama was in his first term in the Senate when he ran for, and won, the presidency in 2008.
Born in Washington, D.C., Booker grew up in suburban New Jersey. His father, Cary Alfred Booker, who died in 2013, was one of the first black executives at IBM. Cory Booker went to Stanford on a football scholarship in 1986 after being named to the All-USA high school team by USA Today.
While a football career beyond college did not pan out, Booker was named senior class president at Stanford and was selected a Rhodes Scholar, studying a year at Oxford. He earned his law degree from Yale in 1997.
In 2006, Booker won Newark’s mayorship — convincingly beating James’ handed-picked successor, Ronald Rice. While rumors abounded that he might challenge then-Republican Gov. Chris Christie for his seat, he beat Steve Lonegan in a special election for the Senate in 2013 and then won a full-term in 2014, defeating Republican Jeff Bell.
Booker will be trying to become the first bachelor president since Grover Cleveland in 1886. While Cleveland married in his first term, James Buchanan, who was elected in 1857, was the last to stay unmarried throughout his term, the Washington Post reports.
Booker’s private life has been the subject of social media and gossip fodder. In October, the New York Post’s Page Six linked him to attorney and former Goldman Sachs employee Chanda Gibson, who he has known since his first run for mayor in 2002.
Most recently, the tabloid linked Booker to Hollywood actress Rosario Dawson, who strongly supported Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic race in 2016, while Booker supported Clinton.
Booker, though, will have his work cut out for him a crowded field. The Rolling Stone Politics 2020 Democratic Primary Leaderboard on Jan. 15 ranked him No. 10 out of 27 announced and projected candidates. There can only be one winner. Booker’s football experience will remind him of that.
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