Cory Booker: Here’s What You Need To Know About Him Before 2020

Senator Cory Booker is running for President. Learn more about his record, policies, and background.

Senator Cory Booker at a press conference on expanding social security - February 2019. (AFGE)

Senator Cory Booker at a press conference on expanding social security – February, 2019. (AFGE)

Could this Senator from New Jersey be our next president?

Senator Cory Booker has officially launched his bid for President, a move that was foreshadowed by his larger than life persona as Newark’s Mayor. Booker announced his presidency with a video highlighting his ties to his community on the first day of Black History Month. Booker has had mixed reviews upon announcing his candidacy, but here we analyze his long career of public service, his achievements, and his controversies.

Who is Cory Booker?

Cory Anthony Booker, born in Washington, D.C. in 1969, is the son of two of the first Black executives at IBM. He grew up in Harrington Park, New Jersey in what he described as a very religious home. Booker attributes his commitment to public service and social justice to his family’s involvement in the Black church, where the theology of struggle in relation to justice was a common theme.

After graduating from law school, Booker worked as a staff attorney for the Urban Justice Center in New York before deciding to run for a seat on the Municipal Council of Newark in 1998, unseating the incumbent George Branch in an upset victory. His determination to take on well-established incumbents continued in 2002 when he challenged longtime Mayor of Newark, Sharpe James. Though he lost the election, an Oscar-nominated documentary was made about Booker’s campaign.

Booker went on to become Mayor of Newark in 2006 and was re-elected in 2010. In 2013, after the sudden death of Frank Lautenberg, Cory Booker decided to run in the Senate special election. His defeat of Republican Steve Lonegan in the general election made him the first Black Senator from New Jersey, where he continues to serve.

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What does Cory Booker stand for?

Cory Booker is running a campaign centered on shared love, common humanity, and community, as evidenced by his campaign announcement and website. To do this, he’s focused thus far on several progressive issues that have been paramount among the 2020 Democrats.

One of Booker’s key stances is on poverty alleviation. Like many of his Democratic colleagues, he supports raising the federal minimum wage to $15 in hopes of evening the playing field for America’s working class. Booker has also had a long history of advocating for affordable housing reform, spanning from his days as a tenants’ rights advocate to last year’s introduction of the HOME (Housing, Opportunity, Mobility, and Equity) Act, a bill aimed at alleviating housing issues through tax credits for renters, zoning policies, and savings incentives. In 2018, he also introduced the Federal Jobs Guarantee Development Act, a three-year job guarantee program, to be tested in 15 urban and rural areas.

Cory Booker has also made criminal justice reform a central part of his campaign, supporting the legalization of recreational marijuana and helping to pass the First Step Act in 2018. The bipartisan bill hopes to reduce recidivism by helping incarcerated people leave prison job-ready; retroactively fix good time credits; ban shackling of pregnant women; and expand compassionate release, among other reforms.

The junior senator from New Jersey also supports DREAMers–the protected undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, refusing to vote for a spending bill that would have ended DACA in 2017. More recently, Booker has spoken out against the family separation crisis at the U.S.- Mexico border. He visited the border in South Texas and wrote an op-ed about asylum seekers and the “broken” asylum system.

What’s Senator Booker’s voting record?

Senator Cory Booker’s voting record has been consistently in opposition of the Trump administration. He vehemently opposed the Muslim Ban, the repeal of DACA, and the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. During the Trump years, Booker has spent time working to expand the Affordable Care Act, though he more recently co-sponsored Senator Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-All Bill. He has spoken out against gun violence and supports gun safety regulations including the bump stock ban and expanded background checks. Senator Booker has supported bipartisan legislation, including the First Step Act and the recently-passed bill banning lynching.

FiveThirtyEight’s “Tracking Congress in The Age of Trump,” shows Cory Booker voting in line with Trump’s policies 15.6% of the time, a strong indication of his opposition to Trump’s administration. Cory Booker is one of eight senators whose voting record places him below 20% support for President Trump’s policies.

Cory Booker’s record as Mayor of Newark, New Jersey.

Senator Booker is unique in that he was a celebrity mayor–someone with uncharacteristic nationwide recognition. This drew criticism from some of Newark’s residents who claimed that he was bolstering his national appeal, rather than dealing with local problems. In some ways, they are correct. When Booker left his position as Mayor to join the Senate in 2013, the city’s poverty, crime, and unemployment rates were still high.

However, under Mayor Cory Booker, Newark did see some improvements. New grocery stores were built in places previously considered food deserts. His city government built the first park on the Passaic riverfront. He also hired a philanthropy liaison with the hopes of bringing in private revenue for the city’s public endeavors. During his tenure, the City of Newark created a new prisoner re-entry office, a sustainability department, and a community planning department.

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What are Cory Booker’s achievements and controversies?

Cory Booker’s Achievements

Perhaps Cory Booker’s biggest achievement is his maintenance of a larger-than-life superhero persona, committed to helping his fellow citizen. This is the same man who chased down an armed robber and saved a woman from a burning building in Newark. But his national profile as Mayor of Newark made him a master fundraiser, someone able to get private investment in the city, laying the groundwork for the current development there.

Senator Cory Booker’s achievements as a Senator can be attributed to his strong opposition of the Trump administration’s policies. Rarely voting in line with Trump, Booker has recently begun to introduce progressive bills aimed at poverty-reduction and criminal justice reform. One particular success was his introduction of the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act; after he and his co-sponsors introduced the bill, the Federal Bureau of Prisons issued a memo calling for access to free sanitary products, which was a key component of the legislation.

In a Senate first, Cory Booker testified against Jeff Sessions’ nomination for attorney general. No other Senator had ever testified against a colleague, but Booker gave an impassioned plea to the Senate to vote against Sessions’ nomination because of his record on civil rights. Despite Sessions’ confirmation, Booker’s testimony remains an example of his commitment to social justice.

Cory Booker’s Controversies

Cory Booker’s biggest controversy came just days after his testimony against Jeff Sessions. Senator Booker had joined the Republican majority in voting against a proposal aimed at lowering prescription drug costs. In a time when more and more Democrats were rejecting corporate interests, Booker was facing accusations that he was cozying up to the pharmaceutical industry.

It’s not just the pharmaceutical industry that makes progressives wary of Cory Booker, however. He was the Democrat who received the most contributions from Wall Street, raising concerns about his ability to stand up for banking reforms. Though he tries to explain this as a result of his constituency, many left-leaning Democrats continue to see it as a problem. Another place where he breaks from the leading progressive candidates is his support for school choice, a debate most recently in the news because of Trump’s Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos. Though Booker voted against Devos’ nomination, he continues to defend the Newark school choice project he introduced there, arguing that charter schools spur educational gains in lower-performing districts.

Where does Cory Booker come from?

Cory Booker is the high-achieving son of Carolyn Rose and Cary Alfred Booker, who met when they were working at IBM in D.C. When Carolyn and Cary moved to Harrington, New Jersey they had trouble finding a real estate agent that would sell a home to a Black family. Cory Booker’s parents shared their experiences growing up with their son, who would later draw on them as inspiration in his career. His father was sent to college in part because of generous friends and neighbors who chipped in to help with tuition, which Cory Booker sees as proof of collective action making a difference. His mother was active in the Civil Rights movement and the fight for social justice, which she continued to be passionate about through her family’s involvement in the Black church.

In high school, Cory Booker played varsity football and went on to Stanford University, where he studied political science (B.A.) and sociology (M.A.). While at Stanford, he continued to play football and was elected senior class president. He was also involved with a student crisis hotline as well as working alongside youth in East Palo Alto. After Stanford, Cory Booker continued his education, becoming a Rhodes Scholar, and continuing on to Yale Law School.

The Rantt Rundown

If Cory Booker can put his controversies behind him, he is certainly poised to be a formidable contender for the Democratic nomination. However, in a field full of so-called progressives, it will be difficult for him to leave that past behind. If successful, his campaign, focused on love and collaboration, may galvanize a divided America to work together to oppose Trump. But with new Democrats announcing every week, only time will tell if he will rise to the top.

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Elections // 2020 / Cory Booker / Democratic Party / Senate