Former Newark Mayor Cory Booker has never been afraid to speak his mind, and he certainly wasn’t afraid to support his city in whatever way he could.
Now, he’ll have the chance to use that voice to champion causes for his home state as well.
Booker, who rocketed to national fame as a booster of a city that has long been known for its poverty and high crime rate, easily defeated Republican candidate Steve Lonegan in a special election to replace Democrat Frank Lautenberg, who passed away in June at the age of 89.
Booker put the city of Newark in the national limelight during his time as mayor, heralding causes to aggressively seek ways to lower the city’s high crime rate. Booker himself at times joined neighborhood watch patrols during his tenure.
His efforts were largely successful—Newark’s violent crime rate dropped significantly from 2006-08, and in March 2010, not one murder was committed in Newark, the first time that had happened in any one month in 44 years.
Booker worked diligently to reduce the city’s budget deficit during his first term, a skill that can certainly be useful on the national level considering the recent government shutdown.
Booker had already decided to run against Lautenberg in the 2014 election, announcing his intention to run in December 2012. When Lautenberg died, he immediately announced his intention to seek Lautenberg’s seat in a special election.
Now that Booker is in, what can New Jersey’s citizens expect?
For starters, they’ll have a man who’s not afraid to tackle the important issues, and he’ll use whatever forum is available to present his stance. Booker has a huge presence on Twitter, with over 1.4 million followers.
He’s also not afraid to hob-nob with celebrities and seek out their support. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was so impressed with Booker and his plans for Newark that he announced in 2010 that he was donating $100 million of his own money to help rebuild the Newark school system, long maligned for its low national test scores.
It’s clear that New Jersey citizens like what they’ve seen from Booker. In a poll conducted by Farleigh-Dickinson University back in January, Booker received a favorable rating that eclipsed that of current senator Lautenberg by a wide margin (66 percent to 45 percent).
Booker will complete the remaining 15 months left on Lautenberg’s term and will have to run again in November for a new six-year term. But considering the wide margin of victory in the special election, his chances for re-election are high.
Booker will join a body of legislators that features a deep divide—not quite like the derisive partisan politics currently portrayed in the House of Representatives, but split nonetheless.
Booker used his campaign to rail against those partisan splits that have led to historically low Congressional favorability ratings, and he’ll now have the chance to forge bipartisan partnerships with the goal of making progress.
He’s going to be the kind of senator who’s going to gravitate toward the getting-things-done caucus," said Booker spokesman Kevin Griffis. "He’s going to be someone who’s going to look to forge partnerships wherever he can to make progress for New Jersey families."
There have been many other Congressional candidates who have made the same promises to their constituents, only to fall short after assuming office. But Booker has a real chance to actually follow through. His is a voice that resonates with the people, and he has the ability to reach out to constituents with a national profile that he’s established quickly and with the ear of one of the most powerful politicians in the world—President Barack Obama.
Cory Booker will face a daunting task in trying to effect change, but he’ll add a refreshing voice to a Congress that has seen nothing but heavy criticism from voters who are tired of the constant bickering.