Is Cory Booker ready to step into New Jersey's statehouse?
 
Is Cory Booker ready to step into New Jersey's statehouse?

No one following the career of Cory Booker believes his political aspirations ended when he was elected mayor of Newark, New Jersey.

The state’s largest city offers a platform for courting national audiences via the media and personal appearances. The mayor proudly seeks opportunities to cultivate financial and political heavyweights in both political parties, and often plays up the many interests he shares with the state’s republican governor, Chris Christie.

Last May, the two teamed up for a YouTube video, which spoofed Booker’s reputation for heroics.

“Gov., I’ve got this,” Booker repeats in the video, always one jump ahead of Christie. That catchphrase could end up as a campaign slogan if Booker decides to officially challenge Christie for the governorship, which some major news outlet are suggesting.

The possibility of a political confrontation between the two prompted speculation in USA Today suggesting the continuing battle between Democrats and Republicans could spill over into next year: “A race between Booker and Christie would be high-profile and intense, not only because the New Jersey governor’s race is one of the few statewide contests in 2013 but also because the two men are friends who have worked together on policy.”

Like USA Today, an Associated Press story, appearing in the Washington Post, offered nothing that could be considered hard facts. It quoted an anonymous democratic county chair, who said Booker had “reached out,” talking to other country chairs “weighing a possible run.”

PolitickerNJ did have a quote from the chair of the Union County Democratic Committee, Charlotte DeFilippo. “He’s the most viable candidate who comes to mind at this moment.” But that  didn’t confirm any face-to-face meetings. A second source, unidentified, told the website, “I don’t know what he ultimately plans to do.”

That was the question put to Booker last May, in an interview before an audience at the Newark Museum, by Dr. Clement Price, an authority on Newark past and present and also professor of history at Rutgers University. “The mayor responded that he believed he had the best job in America. I took that to mean he was leaving his options open.”

This has been Booker’s standard answer each time he’s questioned about future aspirations, which also include speculations about running for the senate seat currently held by Frank Lautenberg (D) who, at age 88, shows no signs of stepping down in favor of the mayor or anyone else.

Still the New York Times, which maintains a lively and updated profile of Cory Booker, in connecting and contrasting him with Christie, says, “Mr. Christie, the blunt-speaking suburban white Republican, and Mr. Booker, the Scripture-quoting urban black Democrat long rumored to want the governor’s job…”

Both Booker and Christie have a propensity for attracting attention and creating rumors while being described in glib journalistic parlance, which, as a duo, they both benefit from, having established themselves as the “the state’s odd couple” and admitting they text and talk several times a week. Both will be keynote speakers at their respective party’s national conventions — coveted honors guaranteed to elevate their national profiles even further — while they stay in sync as up-and-coming leaders, and, just as important, political opposites who get along and support each other.

Booker denies the rumors that he’s met with party officials. His focus is “canvassing the state and country to help re-elect President Barack Obama.” He did admit, however, in an interview with WBGO FM’s Newark Today that a  possible gubernatorial run is “being asked by me by a lot of folks, and again my response is that those decisions have to wait.”

Some media report he’ll decide in December. Price offered a more reflective response: “I don’t know if this is political posturing or maneuvering or a trial balloon. The consensus among observers in New Jersey is that Mayor Booker and Governor Christie seem to be allies across party lines.”

“Cory Booker,” observes Price, “is truly adept at melding political and celebrity status. As for New Jersey’s future politically, Cory, Christie, and Lautenberg will step forward with their true plans for the near and distant future.”

In the midst of speculation about a gubernatorial run, anticipation is running high for a dynamic Cory Booker keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention next month. In the meantime, there is the recent email from Emily’s List with a letter from and picture of the Newark mayor, whose message is that he understands what’s at stake for women and their families in the upcoming election.

At least until December, Cory Booker’s YouTube message may reassure Governor Chris Christie. However, “Don’t worry, Governor. I got this” is a catchy campaign phrase.

 
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