Cory Booker took office as mayor of Newark, N.J., in 2006. Booker’s political career began eight years earlier, when he was elected as a Newark city councilman. That same year, the Rhodes Scholar, Yale graduate and son of two IBM executives moved into a troubled public-housing project in the “Brick City’s” crime-ridden Central Ward.
Booker stayed for eight years in an effort to help tenants fight for better conditions, and he was one of the last residents to move out before the site was torn down.
In his 2006 bid for mayor, Booker ran on a campaign of increasing public safety and getting tougher on crime. Once elected, he brought in the same top cop who worked to cut New York City’s crime rate in the early 2000s. Together, they reproduced the same success in Newark; figures for 2006 to 2008 show murders down 36 percent, shootings 41 percent lower and rapes down 30 percent.
WATCH THIS GRIO ORIGINAL VIDEO ON MAYOR BOOKER’S ‘FEUD’ WITH CONAN O’BRIEN
Booker’s administration also doubled the affordable housing under development and quadrupled the amount in pre-development. All the while, Booker slashed the budget deficit by more than half and he has attracted $100 million in private funding to his city.
With such impressive numbers in his first mayoral term, Booker at one point looked like a candidate for another title: first black U.S. president. But the distinction was not to be.
Booker is up for re-election as Newark mayor this year. Positive numbers from a poll released in November fortified rumors about a possible run for governor in 2013. While fellow Democrats whisper about the possibility, Booker’s team says it is focused strictly on the mayoral race.
When looking at his life and future, Booker seems undaunted. “I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community,” Booker said on his Facebook page. “And as long as I live, it is my privilege to do whatever I can.
“I want to be thoroughly used up when I die,” said Booker, “For the harder I work, the more I live.”