For Cory Booker, the future has always looked like this. The boy from Harrington Park, football hero, Stanford undergrad, Rhodes scholar, Yale Law.
Then, a move to Newark where he cultivated a profile of the crusading councilman, unafraid to camp out in the hood, or ultimately to take on a powerful incumbent. This, all the while under the watchful eye of cameras as in “Street Fight,” the documentary that began to spread the Booker mystique beyond New Jersey.
He lost his first run for mayor but won a national audience. His march to city hall? Inevitable.
As mayor, he went right to work, polishing an image of hands-on chief executive by shoveling residents out of their parking spots during snow storms and carrying neighbors out of burning buildings. He was seemingly able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, and always aware that the cameras were not far behind.
But running the state’s largest city proved to be a heavy lift. A tough economy forced municipal layoffs and the crime rate fluctuated, some good years followed by brutal upticks that shook residents. By the middle of his second term, residents seemed to have had their fill of the jet-setting mayor.
“Man, he need to worry about his city instead of Chicago and Oprah,” one Newark resident said.
But it is without question that Booker’s term in office brought more positives than negatives.
When an opportunity to run for the U.S. Senate presented itself, Booker grabbed it, despite criticism that he was pushing aside the aging incumbent Frank Lautenberg. He won a special election, becoming New Jersey’s first black United States Senator and never looked back. It was a slow rise to prominence in the Senate while solidifying his national image with rousing speeches before national audiences and taking on the new president in 2016 in the most Booker of ways.
“I just want to say to him, I love you, I love your family. Listen, I’m going to pray for you. I harbor no ill will for you. I just do not want you to be my president,” Booker said at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
With all eyes on his potential presidential candidacy, he won praise and ridicule for his role on the Judiciary Committee during the Kavanaugh hearings.
“This is about the closest I will probably ever have in my life to an ‘I am Spartacus moment,’” Booker said.
On Friday, he made the inevitable official, and now his biggest political challenge awaits.