This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat who rose to prominence as Newark’s charismatic and ambitious mayor, announced Friday that he is running for president. Booker chose the first day of Black History Month to launch his campaign, timing that nods to Booker’s own heritage and suggests he will put it at the center of his pitch to voters. “The history of our nation is defined by collective action; by interwoven destinies of slaves and abolitionists; of those born here and those who chose America as home; of those who took up arms to defend our country, and those who linked arms to challenge and change it,” Booker narrates in a video released on Friday morning, which features him walking through his Newark neighborhood. “I’m Cory Booker and I’m running for president of the United States of America,” he says in the video.
Comparisons to ObamaBorn in 1969 in Washington, Booker enjoyed a comfortable upbringing in the post-civil rights era, a lot he ascribes to a “conspiracy of love” that enabled his parents to break barriers. Cary and Carolyn Booker were among the earliest black executives at IBM and, because of anti-discrimination laws, they were able to buy a home and raise their children in the affluent, mostly white community of Harrington Park, New Jersey. Booker attended Stanford as a star football recruit, playing for four years but, by his own admission, never breaking through at the college level. Booker’s interests were broad, however: He also served as student body president and ran a crisis hotline for students. He would go on to attend Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and later graduate from Yale Law School. With an elite law degree in hand, Booker bypassed more lucrative opportunities and moved into an affordable housing complex in one of Newark’s poorest neighborhoods, planning to lend his skills to a nonprofit. He soon turned to local politics, however, unseating a longtime incumbent on the City Council. In 2002, Booker once again took on an uphill political battle, mounting a challenge to Newark Mayor Sharpe James, an avatar of old-school political corruption. Although Booker fell short by a few thousand votes, he won in losing — becoming a media and political darling in the process. Four years later, Booker ran again and won, cementing his status as a rising star in the Democratic Party. As a talented and ambitious black politician, Booker has elicited predictable comparisons to former President Barack Obama, whom he endorsed during the 2008 primary and campaigned for in 2012. Booker has acknowledged the trope and jokes about it, but he doesn’t neatly fit the mold. Whereas Obama often was guarded and serious, Booker is an extrovert whose unbridled enthusiasm and brimming energy can seem almost comical. Booker also did not take the express lane to a presidential bid, as Obama did. Instead, he served nearly eight years as mayor, passing on an opportunity to lead Obama’s Office of Urban Affairs in 2009, before successfully running for Senate in 2013 in a special election following the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Booker will be up for re-election in New Jersey in 2020; state law would permit him to run for Senate and president simultaneously. Booker’s core message has remained consistent over many years in politics — with a focus on love and unity that undergirds everything else. In some ways, Booker is a political heir to former President Jimmy Carter, who in the aftermath of the Nixon administration pledged a government “as good and honest and decent and compassionate and filled with love as are the American people.” Booker recently described Carter as a “moral (giant) in America” and a model for “what I want my message to be in leadership.” Carter, for his part, had urged Booker to run for president. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, who seems poised to be one of Booker’s chief rivals, also embraced some of Carter’s signature themes in her debut rally last week, repeatedly invoking the Carter-esque term “truth.” But Booker makes a distinctly emotional appeal, with soaring, often sermon-like oratory. Last year, he said he doesn’t know if he has tapped into “a winning political message or not, but I will always be talking about trying to unify this country, trying to bring us together.” And he has not been cowed by steep political odds before. “He’s a person who operates between instincts, gut and faith,” said Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat who’s the most recent former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “What he did when he decided to take on an incumbent mayor, I think he’s driven more by faith and purpose than politics.”