The more I read about Booker, the more I like him (putting aside my natural rivalry with Yale Law and Rhodes people). He wiped the floor with the opposition in Newark. Good model for aspiring politicians on the board:http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/10/nyregion/10man.html
Cory Anthony Booker: On a Path That Could Have No Limits
By DAMIEN CAVE
Published: May 10, 2006
Democrats compare him to Barack Obama, the charismatic United States senator from Illinois, or Harold Ford Jr., the Tennessee congressman.
Ronald L. Rice, the former deputy mayor of Newark, had only weeks to put together a campaign that struggled to raise money and compete.
Young, black, Ivy League-educated and pragmatic, Cory Anthony Booker is part of an emerging generation of politicians who came up after the major battles of the civil rights movement and say they have outgrown its approach.
But while Mr. Booker, 37, clearly sees himself as a next-generation leader who will fight for ideas and people, not ideology or party, he has chosen a position that has long been the first stop of his elders: big-city mayor.
Unlike Mr. Ford, who was sworn into Congress at the age of 26, Mr. Booker will become a manager — "chief executive of a major city," said Ellis Cose, an author and columnist who often writes about race.
That decision could make or break a career that his friends and supporters said could have no limits.
"These other guys, at the end of the day, don't really have to run anything," Mr. Cose said. "He's going to have to run something, and he's never really run anything of any substance or size before. He can fail."
Mr. Booker, whose major management experience is with his own campaign, has acknowledged the challenge before him. But he said there is a logic and inevitability to his decision to take on the entrenched political establishment to run a struggling, poor, largely black city.
In a recent interview, Mr. Booker said he moved into Newark in 1995 — the summer before his second year at Yale Law School — because he saw it as a place where he could make a difference. He has spoken often, and passionately, about cities, saying they are "the last frontier to make real the promise of America."
He insists that he will make Newark a national model of urban governing by employing a mix of discipline and openness to new ideas.
"I'm a big believer that we need to raise people's expectations in this city," he said in one recent interview.
His urban zeal was developed in adulthood. He grew up in Harrington Park, N.J., a wealthy, mostly white suburb 20 miles north of Newark. Mr. Booker, the youngest of two sons born to parents who were among the first African-American executives at I.B.M., was known in high school for getting good grades and starring on the football team, and for his love of science fiction, including "Star Trek."
Chris Magarro, a childhood friend who is now a major campaign contributor, described Mr. Booker as a habitually social overachiever who sometimes put people off with his eagerness to please.
"He's not like anybody you'll meet," Mr. Magarro said. "It would be very hard to figure that he's that genuine." But, he added, "he really is just that nice."
His earnestness can at times be confounding. Upbeat, chatty and competitive, he drops quotations into conversations like a professor seeking tenure. Even when campaigning, he occasionally corrects people over minor mistakes.
In 2002, his sunny optimism, out-of-town roots and multiple degrees — from Stanford, Oxford and Yale Law — were turned against him when he tried to make the leap from Newark's Municipal Council to mayor.
His decision to take on Sharpe James, a canny, up-from-the-streets political brawler who had never lost an election, could have ended his political career. It was an ugly campaign. The mayor, seeing an opening in Mr. Booker's out-of-town support and his willingness to embrace such nontraditional urban ideas as school vouchers, falsely said that Mr. Booker was white, Jewish, gay and a Republican.
In the end, the voters decided to go with what they knew. Mr. Booker lost by six percentage points.
Over the next four years, he split time between a nonprofit he founded, Newark Now; a downtown law firm where he was a partner; and efforts to quietly win over the city's skeptics, one by one, with an eye toward a second campaign for mayor.
"In many ways, he went underground, below the radar," said Carl Sharif, his campaign manager. "He was talking to a lot of people, just not in public."
His effort was helped by Mr. James's decision not to seek a sixth term and by the belated, underfunded campaign of his leading opponent, State Senator Ronald L. Rice.
Now, having won over many of the skeptics, Mr. Booker is poised to take over the poor struggling city of 280,000, with its failing schools, rising gun violence, annual budget of more than $600 million and ossified bureaucracy loyal to Mayor James.
David Paterson, the New York state senator who is running for lieutenant governor and who recently became friendly with Mr. Booker, said he believed that Mr. Booker was capable and authentic.
"He's what the people who were running things really wanted to produce," Mr. Paterson said. "Young black scholars who had great opportunity, had great cachet, had relationships outside the community and cared enough to come back to the community."
And yet, as a manager he is still an unknown.
"After all that's been written and said about him, there's still the unanswered question: What is his leadership ability?" said the Rev. Reginald T. Jackson, executive director of the Black Ministers' Council of New Jersey. "We're about to find out. And in fact, he's about to find out, too."
Josh Benson contributed reporting for this article.