Cory Booker favored in N.J. Senate primary. Are his ambitions even higher?
New Jersey voters select Democratic and GOP candidates for the Senate Tuesday. Here are three items to consider when assessing the longer-term potential of Newark Mayor Cory Booker.
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Mayor Booker, who in recent surveys has held a large double-digit advantage over his nearest party rival, is then expected to face off against former Bogota, N.J., mayor Steve Lonegan, who is favored to win the Republican contest, also being held Tuesday. The special election to fill the seat vacated by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D), who died in June, will be Oct. 16.
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Whoever wins in October will have to run again next year for a full term.
Much as the current occupant of the White House once was, the Oxford-educated and social media-adept Booker is often asked about his presidential aspirations.
So what do you need to know about the contest and about Booker, who is young, telegenic, and has celebrity friends (actress Eva Longoria stumped for him Monday)? Is he the party’s flavor of the month, or might he have a national future?
Three items to consider when assessing Booker’s longer-term potential:
No fans in the Lautenbergs
If Booker wins, he doesn’t do it with the Lautenberg family’s seal of approval.
Deference to Senator Lautenberg was not foremost on Booker’s mind as he plotted his political future. While Lautenberg was alive, Booker, who has served as mayor since 2006, announced he was exploring a primary bid. The news prompted the senior senator, who hadn’t yet made clear his intention to run or retire, to suggest one form of punishment.
"I have four children; I love each one of them," Lautenberg told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "I can't tell you that one of them wasn't occasionally disrespectful, so I gave them a spanking and everything was OK."
This summer, the Lautenberg family issued a statement endorsing one of Booker’s Democratic primary rivals, Rep. Frank Pallone (D).
“Frank Lautenberg followed three fundamental principles as New Jersey’s U.S. Senator: stay true to his progressive values, put New Jersey first, and be a workhorse, not a show horse," the Lautenberg family said in a statement backing Representative Pallone.
Now, intraparty sour grapes don’t typically register for voters as they weigh which candidate to support. And there are plenty of politicians in both parties who decline to politely wait their turn before launching bids (again, President Obama comes to mind). But Booker’s maneuvering does reflect something of his ability to play nice, or not. And the Senate is a place where those with long futures learn to build allegiances and be good colleagues, both within their own party and across the aisle.