Booker Supporters Criticize Record as Newark Mayor

Sen. Cory Booker
Sen. Cory Booker / Getty Images
June 18, 2019

Past and present supporters of Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) had sharp words for his record as Newark's mayor in a new profile of the presidential hopeful, saying his tenure "left a bitter taste."

Booker served as Newark mayor from 2006 to 2013, then moved to the U.S. Senate after winning a special election in 2013 and a full term in 2014. He gained national attention while mayor for his active social media use and made-for-TV acts like saving a woman from a burning home and shoveling a resident's driveway, but his own supporters had reservations about how he ran the city.

Augusto Amador, a Newark city councilman since 1998, has endorsed Booker's 2020 presidential bid but said his mayoral record gave him "mixed feelings." Roll Call reported Amador's investigation of corrupt oversight of the city's water system gave him concerns about Booker's managerial abilities.

"I like Cory, but there were some things that left a bitter taste in my mouth when he was mayor of the city of Newark," he told Roll Call.

"Like many people in Newark, we were ready for change," said resident Bill Chappel, who supported Booker’s city council run in 1998. "As we say now in Newark, we drank the Cory Booker Kool-Aid."

Data undermines Booker's claim that he brought Newark back from the brink, with the city's poverty and unemployment rates still drastically outpacing the rest of the country's.

Columbia economics professor Brendan O’Flaherty, who served as acting chief financial officer for the first summer of Booker's term, called Booker a "celebrity mayor" and has written about the city's high crime rate and large deficit under his administration.

"He was campaigning for president; he wasn’t campaigning for mayor," O'Flaherty told Roll Call.

Booker's campaign has failed to catch fire thus far in the crowded 2020 field; he's one of seven U.S. Senators and 24 candidates overall seeking the opportunity to knock off President Donald Trump.

He's touted his rough-and-tumble campaigns for Newark city council and mayor as proof of his ability to win against Trump.

"The race I’m running now reminds me of 1998 more than any of my races," Booker said. "We were terribly underestimated."