Senator Cory Booker headed to Iowa, unofficially launching his 2020 campaign for the presidency on Saturday, but at least one progressive Democrat in New Jersey raised a red flag about the trip.
Booker literally walked off the U.S. Senate floor after a failed effort to stop the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court and got on a private jet that whisked him off to the Hy Vee Hall in Des Moines, where he addressed crowd of 1,200 to 1,500 energized activists.
The Iowa caucuses first gained national attention in the 1970s when George McGovern leveraged the momentum from winning second place in the Democratic caucus as an underdog to winning the Democratic nomination in the 1972 election.
The Iowa caucuses, expected to be the first votes in the next U.S. presidential cycle, are scheduled to take place on February 3, 2020.
“You are never defined in life by what happens to you,” Booker said at the Iowa Democratic Party’s annual gala, which was once called the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. “You’re defined by how you respond.”
“Hours after casting his vote against Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, in what might be the most important failure in a career replete with them, Sen. Cory Booker flew to Iowa as a candidate for president,” said Lisa McCormick, the progressive Democrat who earned 159,998 votes in the 2018 primary against Sen. Bob Menendez, who remains in a tight race against GOP pharmaceutical CEO Bob Hugin. “Newark is a wreck. New Jersey has long to go, Will America be next?”
“This is not a time to curl up. It is not a time to shut up. It is not a time to give up. It is a time to get up, to rise up, to speak up!” Booker told the Iowa Democrats. “It is time for you not to wait for hope, but to be the hope.”
“You don’t give a speech like that unless you’re running for president,” said Scott Brennan, Iowa Democratic National Committee member and a former state party chairman who was quoted by Natasha Korecki, a national correspondent for Politico.
“Booker must decide if he wants to represent New Jersey or run for president. He should not do both,” said McCormick. “Instead of using one elected office as a stepping stone to another, wasting your tax dollars and failing to do their job any elected official should be required to resign if he or she wants to seek election to another job.”
“It was wrong for Republican Governor Chris Christie to virtually abandon our state by campaigning for president while he was being paid by Garden State taxpayers,” said McCormick. “It would be equally wrong for Cory Booker to ignore his responsibility to New Jersey and that will show he is out of touch with the public.”
Before leaving office, Christie became a political albatross with historically poor approval ratings from about eight in 10 voters, with more than half saying they strongly disapproved of the Republican’s performance as governor, after the Washington Bridge scandal, well-publicized absences from the state to nurture a 2016 presidential campaign and public humiliations from Trump.
Christie spent all or part of 261 days outside the Garden State in 2015 as he campaigned for the Republican presidential nomination, and another of 137 days in 2014. Christie endorsed Trump for president on Feb. 26, two weeks after dropping out of the presidential race.
In 2016, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop launched a website calling for Christie to resign after the third funeral for a police officer he missed because “Donald Trump on the campaign trail is more important than the people of New Jersey.”
The Star-Ledger reported in 2012, that over an 18-month period while he was mayor, Booker was out of state and out of the New York City metropolitan area on 21.7 percent of the days.
Booker’s frequent networking outside the city was described bluntly by state Senator Ronald Rice Sr., who said, “Cory has been an absentee mayor, basically.”
Despite that fact, Booker has relatively high poll ratings because of the crippling unpopularity of the Republican president and a lack of independent media in the state, but some progressives note that he has also never been seriously challenged.
Booker won a special election to the Senate on October 16, 2013 after serving seven years as mayor in Newark, where he garnered national name recognition, a Twitter audience of 1.4 million followers, and friendships with billionaires Oprah Winfrey, Mike Bloomberg and Mark Zuckerberg.
Booker’s politically moderate ideology closely aligns with the New Democrat movement and despite his pronouncement that “life is about purpose, not position,” he has been mentioned as a potential member of multiple U.S. presidential tickets without having a lot of substance.
Beyond the headline-grabbing heroics, Booker did not actually accomplish much to heal Newark, described as the quintessential failed city, scarred by decades of disinvestment.
Almost a third of the city’s population lives below the federal poverty line. The local unemployment rate is nearly double the national average. And the murder rate remains about where it was before Booker was elected mayor.
His administration’s emphasis on zero-tolerance policing and a web of surveillance cameras proved fruitless, as crime remains a serious problem in the city. Last year, 93 percent of crimes reported to police went unsolved.
Booker appointed Garry McCarthy as director of the Newark Police Department, who was later hired to take over the Chicago Police Department and then fired following a cover-up of the shooting of Laquan McDonald.
A 2012 audit by the Chicago Inspector General determined that under McCarthy, the Chicago Police Department under-counted crimes by 25 percent by not following state guidelines. Some have questioned if Booker or McCarthy fudged the numbers to make claims of progress in Newark.
Booker also tried to sell off the municipal water authority and he gave a $102 million tax break to Panasonic North America for moving its headquarters less than ten miles from one New Jersey community, Secaucus, to another, Newark.
Booker testified on behalf of Menendez during a bribery and corruption trial last year, then he endorsed his fellow senator for re-election while he was still under a federal indictment without even meeting McCormick, the sole Democratic primary challenger.
McCormick reiterated her critiques of Booker in a series of comments on Twitter.
Connect with NJTODAY.NET
Join NJTODAY.NET's free Email List to receive occasional updates delivered right to your email address!