He’s run into burning buildings, rescued pets, and dug out driveways. Now everyone’s wondering what the former Newark mayor’s next act will be after officially becoming Sen. Cory Booker.
Booker was sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden at a ceremony Thursday, replacing Jeff Chiesa, a political appointee of Gov.Chris Christie who held the spot only briefly after Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg died in June at age 89. He’s one of just two African-American senators, the other being Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina, who was appointed last year to fill the seat vacated by Jim DeMint.
“I urge my fellow senators, Democratic and Republican, to get to know this good man,” Majority Leader Harry Reid said at Thursday’s swearing-in. “I feel so elated that he’s here.”
The former mayor of Newark, Booker prevailed easily in an special election against Steve Lonegan. It was not your typical race: Lonegan’s campaign staff made headlines with a race-baiting tweet comparing Newark to a foreign country and a top strategist delivered a bizarre homophobic screed about Booker’s Twitter correspondence with a stripper. Booker didn’t emerge entirely unscathed, however – he resigned his position with a web video startup after his role came under scrutiny.
Booker earned a national profile in Newark for his hands-on approach and constant social media presence, often personally responding to constituents’ requests for city services. In the most dramatic episode of his administration, he ran into a burning building on his street to rescue a woman.
He also became a controversial figure in the education world for promoting charter schools and increased teacher accountability, often running into opposition from teachers unions along the way. His efforts drew support from Christie as well $100 million in private funding from Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg.
But the Senate’s a different animal: a lot more voting on procedural motions and a lot less shoveling constituents’ walkways. Freshmen Senators often keep quiet in their first years, but Booker suggested in August he might make a splash from the start, even citing Republicans Ted Cruz and Rand Paul as a possible model.