- Camden Leaders Push Back Against Critics of Tax Breaks
- David Cruz | NJTV News | May 17, 2019 | Budget
- Former Gov. Jim Florio among those who vouch for value of tax incentives in revitalizing the city
- Camden Residents Blast Tax Incentives — and Norcross
- David Cruz | NJTV News | May 15, 2019 | Budget
- Citizens contend that not much has changed despite $1 billion in incentives for companies in the orbit of powerbroker George Norcross
- Booker Rolls Out Gun Control Proposals
- David Cruz | NJTV News | May 6, 2019 | Politics, The Booker Beat
- Senator’s plan includes gun-safety courses and background checks
- A Hard Day's Fortnight
- David Cruz | NJTV News | April 27, 2019 | The Booker Beat
- April 27, 2019 — Two weeks can seem like a lifetime, until they fly by like billboards on a highway.
You're at Newark Airport and then, suddenly, you're flying and driving and driving and flying through Omaha, Sergeant Bluff, Carroll, Nevada (the city), Minden, Des Moines, Sioux City, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Reno, Los Angeles, Houston, Spartanburg, Union (not the one in Jersey), Manning, Columbia, and Charleston.
I can understand why someone would wanna be president, I'm just not sure why someone would wanna actually run for president. It is grueling and repetitive; flying sucks, and hotels can vary dramatically in quality. It isn't always easy to get a good meal, let along quality coffee, and if you're trying to get some regular exercise in, forget that. In a couple of hotels there were "fitness centers" but try hitting the treadmill when schools in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics volleyball championships are staying there, too. A man has to keep his dignity.
But for anyone in the journalism game, it's a trip you don't pass up. In many ways it was the most exhilarating thing I've ever done. Meeting total strangers (from strange lands) and talking to them about their politics and their thoughts about where we are as a nation, and who might be able to change things for the better. Explaining who the hell Cory Booker is. (Maybe one in 10 had heard of him.) And convincing people that no one from Jersey ever says “Joisey.”
Watching a campaign in its infancy, struggling to gain its footing, hearing a dramatic, expertly delivered stump speech so many times that you almost have it memorized yourself. Running into the candidate at airports and sometimes three rows ahead of you on the same plane. Kibitzing and then, two hours later, elbowing your way into the gaggle and grilling him on charter schools and lead in the water back home, political strategy, and his low standing in the polls. I don't know if Booker is going to be able to come out on top in a field of 20. Nobody I know expects him to. But he is indefatigable. And will not only pose for selfies for an hour but now sends personal messages to your boyfriend who couldn't make the event. (Of course, the campaign tracks all that stuff, but, for the faithful, it's a pretty cool thing.)
There are months and months to go before the Iowa caucuses, but, you watch, it's gonna fly by, and before you know it, Election Day will be upon us. So, as I sit here on my final night, in this moderately priced hotel room near the airport, I'm gonna sip this complimentary coffee and fondly recall the billboards passing on the road I've just traveled.
The quaint Sioux City Public Museum; that dusty highway detour we had to take because the main road to Minden was flooded out; the breathtaking sight of the Sierra Nevada; the thin, cool air of the state park in Washoe Valley (population 3,019, elevation 8,900 feet) and cool, clean waters at the edge of Lake Tahoe; the fiery sunset over Virginia Lake, in Reno; Easter Sunday on the Venice Beach boardwalk; a surprisingly hip night of rock ‘n’ roll and southern hospitality from the Indian waitress (Ameena) with a southern twang; and the old black couple who took genuine interest in our work and expressed gratitude about what we do. I wore my press pass every day, and I never felt prouder than I did at that moment.
Things really do pass by fast when you’re speeding down the highway. It’s good to keep your eyes open and looking out the window. — David Cruz
- Booker Wraps Up Cross-Country Tour, Looking for Momentum
- David Cruz | NJTV News | April 26, 2019 | Politics, The Booker Beat
- Cory Booker ends his two-week cross-country 'Justice For All' tour in South Carolina, which is among the early states holding primaries next year
- Dems Tout Diversity but White Males Top 2020 Voter Polls
- David Cruz | NJTV News | April 25, 2019 | Politics, The Booker Beat
- As former Vice President Joe Biden announced that he will seek the Democratic nomination, Sen. Cory Booker said Democrats should celebrate their diverse field of candidates
- ‘Who Run the World?’
- David Cruz | NJTV News | April 25, 2019 | The Booker Beat
- April 25, 2019 — Outside the Granville M. Sawyer Auditorium on the campus of Texas Southern University in Houston about 1,000 or so mostly young women of color waited in line under drizzly skies to get into the She the People Presidential Forum. Inside, Sen. Cory Booker and many of his rivals for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination (including Beto, Bernie, Kamala, Warren, and others with not enough recognition to go by single names) waited to answer questions from She the People co-founder Aimee Allison, Joy-Ann Reid of MSNBC, and selected — one would presume pre-screened — audience members.
“...I’m tempted to say, ‘OK, ladies, let’s get in formation,’” said Reid as she was introduced, quoting Houston’s most famous daughter.
With (MS)NBC as a major co-sponsor of a Democratic presidential forum, one could assume a progressive focus to the subject matter and answers. As one of the few events with more than a couple of candidates in the same building, it promised a lot. But it delivered less than that, unfortunately. From Booker to Warren, the answers were as predictable as the questions, and the appreciative audience’s yelping, whooping and applauding every buzzword and policy promise made this feel more like a pep rally than a forum. (Booker was in full stump-speech mode. I’ve almost memorized his by now. I’m not as well-versed in the other stump speeches, but I heard a lot of familiar lines.)
Many of the young women we spoke to said they didn’t really have their minds made up on which candidate to support. Who could blame them? With what will be 20 candidates essentially saying the same thing — I know that’s an oversimplification, campaign teams — it’s hard to separate the candidates based on much, other than personality. And it’s also way early in the process. Today, the candidates played to the crowd and generated much more applause than analysis.
In that respect, it’s hard to say whether the She the People event did what it was supposed to do: according to a spokesperson, ask the candidates “what are you really gonna do to center our communities in meaningful and powerful ways beyond the rhetoric that we always hear from Donald Trump?” I’m not sure what that even means, but I’m sure if someone had said it during the forum it would have drawn tremendous applause. — David Cruz
- Vying with Other 2020 Dems for Votes from Women of Color
- David Cruz | NJTV News | April 24, 2019 | Politics, The Booker Beat
- Sen. Cory Booker, other Democratic presidential candidates take part in Texas forum that focuses on issues facing women of color
- Booker, LA Mayor Talk Environment but Not Endorsement
- David Cruz | NJTV News | April 22, 2019 | Politics, The Booker Beat
- Los Angeles mayor offers introductions but no endorsement; Booker sidesteps assertions that he either ignored or missed the lead water crisis in Newark when mayor
- Cory Who?
- David Cruz | NJTV News | April 20, 2019 | The Booker Beat
- April 20, 2019 — It’s a big world. And even with the penetration of cable and internet and such, some people can still be oblivious to all the stuff swirling around them. I’m following Sen. Cory Booker around the country as he makes a run for the Democratic nomination for president. I’ve been covering the senator since he was a thorn-in-the-side Newark councilman. At this point, to me and the people of New Jersey, he’s pretty much a household name. He’s got a gazillion social-media followers, so we assumed he’d be a well-known figure everywhere we went. Guess again, New Jersey, you ain’t the center of the world.
In a roadside convenience store between Sergeant Bluff and Des Moines, Iowa, the woman at the cash register (let’s call her Mabel) asks what I’m doing in Iowa. “I’m covering the Booker campaign,” I say, almost proudly (because I’m a journalist on a cross-country trip, dammit.)
“What’s that?” she asks.
“He’s the senator from New Jersey running for president,” I reply.
Rather than an “Oh, that guy,” I get “Never heard of him.”
“Is he a Democrat?” she asks. “Yes,” I say.
“Well, that’s probably why I never heard of him.”
I take my change and grab my spicy beef links and cheese curds. “Well, have a nice day,” I suggest. Mabel does not respond. “Hey lady, I'm just covering the guy,” I think to myself.
Of the five or so Iowans I encountered not at Booker events, just one suggested that they know Booker. “He’s the gay one, right?” No, ma’am, that’s Pete Buttigieg. “Oh, well he seems nice.”
The Cowboy’s Cafe, off Highway 395 North, in Minden, Nevada, is a surprisingly welcoming spot where locals recommend the blueberry buckwheat pancake sandwich. I say “welcoming” because there are all sorts of firearms hanging on the walls and a variety of ammunition arranged in a spiffy glass case just behind our table. Guns are not so big in Jersey as they are here. (Legal ones, anyway.)
Our waitress, Cristol, is the very definition of Nevada nice. (That’s a thing, right?) She tells us all about the Sierra Nevada mountain range and a few other places of interest in nearby California. She’s curious about why we’re here, and I tell her. “Oh, I just read that in the newspaper,” she replies. “Is he any good?”
I mean, he’s a nice guy, but is it for me to say if he’s “any good?” I explain that he’s a nice enough fella but that there are 18 people running for the nomination.
“I know, right!” she exclaims.
She admits to not knowing much about Booker. She’s heard of Biden (“He’s the one with the hands”) and Bernie (“the crazy old guy”). And she admits her family voted for Trump last time but adds that she made a mistake. “I think he’s a jerk,” she says. “Maybe I’ll vote for Booker.”
I tell her he’s holding a “Conversations with Cory” event just on the other side of the highway, in case she wants to stop by.
“Ha, I don’t think so,” she replies. “I'm probably gonna have to work a double. Besides, I hate politics.” — David Cruz
- Booker Meets with Nevada Voters, Responds to Mueller Report
- David Cruz | NJTV News | April 20, 2019 | Politics, The Booker Beat
- Discussion focuses on whether problems of people in rural Nevada are all that different from those faced by people in urban New Jersey
- Adventures in the Air and on the Ground
- David Cruz | NJTV News | April 19, 2019 | The Booker Beat
- April 18, 2019 — Tossed around on the flight from Atlanta to Reno is no way travel, I can tell you that. Rough skies out west made an already packed cabin even more uncomfortable. Probably shouldn’t have gone down that rabbit hole of YouTube videos on Craziest Plane Landings last week.
I’m not a great flyer. It’s all like a commuter van to me, except at 30,000 feet. (Even in first class, in which I am, I assure you, not.)
But, I’m not complaining. It’s been an adventure. My first presidential campaign embed. You really do get to know the candidate this way.
Walking into the bathroom at the airport in Atlanta I hear someone shout “Cruuuuuz!” Not knowing anyone in the city, I assume it’s one of my myriad southern-state fans (of which there are legion). I turn to see Cory Booker smiling goofily and toting an overstuffed backpack.
“What are you up to?” he asks. “Following you, man,” I reply. “I see that,” he says and whisks away. (He’s running behind. Shocker.)
That’s not even my first Cory Booker bathroom story. Maybe later this week I’ll share the famous bathroom confrontation video from the 2012 DNC convention.
Anyway, as I said, we just flew in from Atlanta. But our connection to Reno (after a 90-minute layover in Salt Lake City) has been delayed. And then delayed again. “The captain has asked for the maintenance crew, so our delay’s going to be a little longer,” says the nice woman over the PA system.
Maintenance crew? Can we just walk to Reno from here? — David Cruz
- On to Georgia: Booker Brings a Universal Message
- David Cruz | NJTV News | April 18, 2019 | Politics, The Booker Beat
- Moving on from Iowa, senator is well-received in Atlanta although students from historically black colleges and universities not yet ready to go all-in for the New Jersey candidate
- Pitching Message of Love and Unity to Iowa Democrats
- David Cruz | NJTV News | April 16, 2019 | Politics, The Booker Beat
- Senator speaks of love powerful enough to transform a nation on the brink of dissolving into tribalism. The mostly-white, mostly-liberal, anti-Trump audience loves it
- Iowa Dems Love It When Booker Talks About Love
- David Cruz | NJTV News | April 16, 2019 | The Booker Beat
- April 16, 2019 — It’s Day One of Senator Cory Booker’s “Justice for All” tour and it’s also Tax Day. Booker focuses on his economic justice and his “Rise Credit” tax plan, which extends the earned income tax credit to the benefit of what the campaign says will be 15 million Americans lifted out of poverty. He pitches an increase in capital gains tax and reversing the Trump corporate tax cuts.
Booker — whose mother was the “daughter of Iowans” — gives a convincing (to Democrats) talk on his economic vision of uplifting the poor and middle class, but before too long he switches gears to talk about his favorite topic: love. He defends his love strategy and makes it not about a naive idea that love makes the world go round. Instead, he imbues his idea of love with toughness and power, not weakness. He sells love as an antidote to the laziness and lack of creativity of hate.
It’s nuanced and it’s delivered with a passion that builds, and, while some of us who have seen him speak for years, know where this is going, he crescendos with his story about visiting the Lorraine Motel in Memphis and reading the quote that’s inscribed on the site of MLK’s assassination: “Here cometh the dreamer; let us slay him and we shall see what becomes of his dreams.”
For this mostly white crowd, that landed like a gut punch. Several people were visibly moved by it. Booker grabbed them and shook them with a challenge to dream together, etc. He’s done this a hundred times before, but it was new to this crowd and, as a close, it was hard to beat. It ended in a standing ovation and a lovefest of selfies and hugs that felt a little like that period after church when the minister greets everybody as they’re leaving. Instead of “See you next Sunday,” he reminds the congregants that they can sign a commitment to caucus for him in February. — David Cruz
- Booker Unveils Tax Credit Plan Ahead of Iowa Campaign Event
- David Cruz | NJTV News | April 15, 2019 | Politics, The Booker Beat
- Presidential hopeful proposes significant expansion of eligibility for the earned income tax credit
- Spring Snow in Midwest Slows Embedded Reporter’s Takeoff
- David Cruz | NJTV News | April 15, 2019 | The Booker Beat
- April 15, 2019 — Whoever thought embedding with a presidential campaign would be a good idea? Sure, follow the guy on his first major tour of the country. Start Saturday with a livestream of Sen. Cory Booker's "Hometown Kickoff." Then it's Monday and Tuesday in Iowa; Wednesday in Georgia; Thursday, Friday, Saturday in Nevada. Just fly out of Jersey on Sunday, settle in to a comfy, midpriced Iowa hotel, and get to the first event, right? Easy-peasy.
Well, Mother Nature can be a mother of a different kind sometimes. The plan was fly out of Newark, connect in Chicago, and on to Des Moines. Except a historic mid-April snowstorm hit the greater Chicago area with up to seven inches of snow, sleet, and steady rain, cancelling a thousand flights, including both my flight to Chicago and the connection to Des Moines.
It didn't help that we had boarded and taxied to the runway, only to sit in sunny Newark for two hours before being finally being told that our flight was canceled. Just to top it off, it took 90 minutes to find and retrieve my luggage. ("Sir, I never left the ground.") Our cameraman had it only half as bad. He, at least, made it to Chicago — on an earlier flight — but was stranded there. (And only had to wait four hours for his luggage and camera gear.)
But fear not, [link:https://www.njspotlight.com/bookerbeat/|Booker Beat] readers, we're booked for direct flights into Omaha Monday morning (weather permitting) and will be there for Sen. Booker's first event in Sioux City, where the high is expected to be 66 degrees.
Good news is, I'm already packed. — David Cruz
- Cory Booker’s Inevitable Candidacy
- David Cruz | NJTV News | April 12, 2019 | Politics, The Booker Beat
- Cory Booker: From Gridiron Great to Future Head of State?
- David Cruz | NJTV News | April 12, 2019 | Politics, The Booker Beat
- New Jersey Progressives Lambaste Economic Development Authority
- David Cruz | NJTV News | April 10, 2019 | Politics
- Call for board, comprising numerous holdovers from prior administration, to resign en masse
- Murphy Slams NJ Transit Explanation for Stranding Wrestling Fans
- David Cruz | NJTV News | April 9, 2019 | Transportation
- Transit agency said event at MetLife Stadium ran way over schedule; governor calls that response ‘dog-ate-my homework unacceptable’
- Is NJ Transit Ready for Mass-Transit Armageddon?
- David Cruz | NJTV News | April 3, 2019 | Transportation
- Lawmaker worries about impacts of having to shut down trans-Hudson train tunnel
- Lawmakers Say Alvarez Response to Allegation Not Relevant to Their Hearings
- David Cruz | NJTV News | March 13, 2019 | Politics
- Former Murphy administration official accused of rape appears before special legislative committee day after his account made public
- Murphy Pushes Tax-Incentive Program for Smaller Brownfields
- David Cruz | NJTV News | March 12, 2019 | Energy & Environment
- By capping incentives at $4 million per site, governor hopes to help clean up smaller locales that are still in need of restoration