Senator Booker had his ‘Hometown Kickoff’ rally in Newark this weekend, and many of the marquee-name New Jersey Democrats were there with him to underscore their favorite son endorsements. Phil Murphy, Bob Menendez, and current mayor Ras Baraka among them. It was a long speech, lots of campaign promises or stuffed in there with not much detail – family farms, marijuana reform, universal gun background checks, supporting HBCUs, climate change (he backs Green New Deal), Medicare for All (but still wants private insurance available). He touted commitment to prison reform, including including ending solitary confinement for juveniles, banning the shackling of pregnant women, and providing health essentials like tampons or pads to incarcerated women. I cringe even writing these things down, because it’s so incredible that we now treat prisoners this poorly. And, as Booker points out, brown and black people and the mentally ill get it worse. Booker also focused attention on what he sees as his contributions to the city where he was mayor for 7 years; attracting investments, addressing food deserts in neighborhoods, and ‘thousands” of jobs he says he brought to Newark. Note: there was also an organized pro-Palestinian protest at Booker’s kickoff, a response to his hardline support for Israel.
Some things he name-checked for 2020 are apparent departures; his 2020 promise to “fully fund public schools” stands in contrast to his promotion of privatized education and Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million largely disappearing into the bank accounts of pro-charter consultants. Going unmentioned in Booker’s (needed) goal of prison reform is the fact that during his tenure, ACLU sued his police department for practices that also included racial discrimination, leading to federal oversight of the department which is still ongoing .
Below, NJTV video coverage of Booker’s Newark kickoff, in which David Cruz and Joanna Gagis discuss the relatively small crowd (about 1,000 by their estimation) despite the assembled NJ Democratic firepower. Carolyn Booker (Cory’s mother) introduces him (starting at mark 11 min) and Booker’s speech begins about 19 minutes in.
Where’s Booker right now? Today and Tuesday, in Iowa, Wednesday Atlanta, and he closes out the week in Nevada.
Watch highlights of CNN’s Booker town hall.
Post-Town Hall InsiderNJ reader poll. Unscientific, obv. About as many F’s as A’s.
RCP approval polling average.
RCP Dem Primary candidate polls. Cory Booker at average 3.7%
Website: Cory 2020 Twitter: @CoryBooker Instagram: corybooker
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Current Booker issues worth a read: Reparations, Expand EITC
On the CNN town hall: Late last month it was Booker’s turn in front of CNN’s cameras for a town hall, hosted by Don Lemon. Here’s the thing about watching Booker do his thing, his ‘I’m about love and grace’ thing: We’ve seen it. It may not work on all of us anymore, but that doesn’t mean other voters will not be excited by or moved by his style of campaigning. In the CNN Town Hall, he was more gregarious, more bouncy, that honestly it felt like he was selling his personality over anything else. Cory is not my top choice anyway. I like his focus on prison reform – though I don’t see why prisons are a bad idea to privatize and schools are not, in his view. But I’m grateful for his speaking out about what is really happening behind those walls. But every time I drill down on his platform, I get snapped back by the force of his personality. In a dark time of Trump, he’s trying to position himself as a reminder of “love,” and “grace”. This is Cory, it’s what so many people have liked about him. New Jerseyans? We’ve seen it, and maybe we’ve already been inspired by it, or for others it may be routine by now. But it’s important, when we’re talking about Booker’s chances, to remember that plenty of people are deeply moved by Cory Booker, who in my opinion can be better on the stump than Bill Clinton was in his glory. You may already know the story of me and Sen. Loretta Weinberg watching from the front of the room as about 500 progressive legislators from around the country held their cell phones in the air to catch – and broadcast to their networks – his every word at the SIX Conference in Washington. CNN’s Town Hall was notable for Booker’s rollout of new girlfriend Rosario Dawson, his saying he’d ‘rather hang out with a nice atheist than a mean Christian.’ Are such things enough to sell this candidate to Democrats? It hasn’t been so far, but it’s still early. Keep repeating that to yourself at least through the 2019 NJ contests (#2019ComesFirst) when suddenly it will feel very late indeed. We’ll see if Booker makes it that long. So far, Booker is not catching fire.