Who is Cory Booker?

By Camilo Montoya-Galvez

/ CBS News

2020 hopefuls start visiting New Hampshire

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker became the latest senator to throw his hat into the 2020 ring Friday morning, when he announced his presidential campaign with a video posted to Twitter. Booker attained national fame as the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, for seven years. As a senator, he has been a vocal member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Biography

Booker, who was raised in the affluent suburbs of northern New Jersey, has often cited his parents, Cary and Carolyn, as his inspiration. They were among the first black executives at IBM and desegregated their mostly white neighborhood.

Booker received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Stanford University, where he also played as a tight end for the football team. After graduation, he was awarded the prestigious Rhodes scholarship to study at the University of Oxford, before returning to the U.S. to get his law degree at Yale Law School.

After working as a public-interest attorney and housing advocate in Newark, Booker decided to run for the city's municipal council in 1998. He managed to topple a long-time incumbent and, at age 29, become the youngest-ever member of the council, where he gained notoriety for fasting outside a housing project to denounce the intensifying crime and drug use in some of Newark's neighborhoods.

After launching an unsuccessful bid in 2002 against incumbent mayor Sharpe James, Booker ran again in 2006 and defeated deputy mayor Ronald Rice. During his tenure as mayor, Booker was praised for attracting large companies to Newark and revamping the city's downtown. However, he was also criticized by local residents and officials for appearing out-of-touch and focusing on his national image.

After longtime New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg died in the summer 2013, Booker ran to fill his seat and defeated a little-known Republican mayor in a special election. In 2014, he won reelection to serve a full term in the Senate. Booker is notably the only vegan in the Senate.

Key Issues and views

Booker has made criminal justice reform and the decriminalization of marijuana integral issues of his agenda in the Senate. Pointing to the disproportionate incarceration of minorities for marijuana-related offenses, he crafted the Marijuana Justice Act in the summer of 2017.

Booker is one of the chief architects of the First Step Act, a landmark bill that President Trump signed into law in December after rare overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress. The legislation increases investment in programs to curb recidivism among federal prisoners and modifies several sentencing laws, including mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. Although he hopes to tout it as a signature achievement of his career in Congress, Booker acknowledged that the bill is just one stepping stone to overhaul the criminal justice system.

Controversy

Although he has a liberal voting record in the Senate and has been a staunch critic of the Trump administration, Booker has faced criticism by some progressives for receiving large donations from pharmaceutical corporations and banks. His 2020 campaign will not accept donations from corporate PACs or lobbyists.

In what he touted as his "Spartacus" moment, Booker claimed to have released confidential committee documents during the contentious confirmation process for Justice Brett Kavanaugh. His Republican colleagues accused him of grandstanding and said the documents had already been cleared.

Criticism from Trump

In a November interview with the New York Post, the president said Booker "ran Newark into the ground" and falsely accused him of not living in the city when he was mayor.

During the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump claimed to know more about Booker than the New Jersey senator knew about himself. "If Cory Booker is the future of the Democratic Party, they have no future! I know more about Cory than he knows about himself," Mr. Trump tweeted in July of that year.

Grace Segers contributed to this report

First published on February 1, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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