Cory Booker is the first African-American senator from New Jersey and a former mayor of Newark. He’s a vegan, former college football player, Rhodes Scholar and Yale Law School graduate. Booker was a hunger-striking city councilman and is also an occasional actor who appeared as himself alongside former Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch on the NBC comedy “Parks and Recreation,” where the pair plugged their (fictional) Polynesian folk band “Across the Isle.”
Booker’s first unsuccessful campaign for mayor was the subject of the documentary film “Street Fight,” and during his second campaign, he was the target of a gang assassination plot. As mayor, he gained internet notoriety for shoveling residents’ driveways and rescuing his neighbor from a fire.
When he won his Senate seat in a 2013 special election, Booker became the first African American to join the Senate since former President Barack Obama. If elected president, Booker would be the first unmarried man in the Oval Office in more than a century.
Here is where Booker stands on some key issues:
Economy: Supports $15 minimum wage and guaranteed jobs.
Booker supports a $15 minimum wage and calls it “unacceptable” for Americans to “work a full-time job and still live in poverty.” He also backs a pilot program that would provide grants to local governments to guarantee everyone a job and paid sick leave. Last year, Booker sponsored legislation to eliminate the income gap by creating a savings account for every child that could grow to as much as $46,000 by their 18th birthday. The “opportunity account” could be used to pay for home ownership or higher education.
Booker has said little recently about President Donald Trump’s re-negotiation of trade deals with Canada and Mexico, but he once said such agreements need to be “much more fair to U.S. companies.” He opposed giving the Obama administration fast-track trade authority during early negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Guns: Require background checks. Ban assault weapons.
Booker often cites gun violence in his own Newark neighborhood when pushing for stricter federal gun safety laws. He supports legislation to require background checks for all gun purchases and introduced legislation to ban high-capacity magazines and assault weapons. Booker previously sponsored legislation to ban bump stocks, devices that convert semi-automatic weapons into fully-automatic guns, which were used in the October 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas.
In 2000, as a city councilman in Newark, Booker supported banning all guns. By the time he was mayor a decade later, he admitted banning assault weapons would only prevent a “small percentage” of murders and called the gun debate “tiring.”
Health care: Backs “Medicare for All” and importing prescription drugs.
Booker calls health care an “American right” and, like several other 2020 Democratic candidates, co-sponsored “Medicare for All” legislation introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. The government-run plan would be phased in over four years and end the private insurance market as it currently exists. It would be paid for by a tax on employers and increased taxes on capital gains and on incomes exceeding $250,000. Booker had previously defended the Affordable Care Act but stopped short of supporting a single-payer plan.
In early January, Booker joined Sanders to sponsor a series of bills to lower the cost of prescription drugs by tying prices to other developed countries; allowing the importation of medication from Canada; and directing the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare. Two years earlier, Booker angered progressives when he voted against another Sanders-backed amendment to allow Americans to buy cheaper prescription drugs from Canada. At the time, Booker cited concerns about the safety standards of imported drugs. Booker, who represents a state with a large number of pharmaceutical companies, put a “pause” on campaign donations from the industry nearly two years ago after receiving criticism from Democrats. He later vowed to reject any corporate PAC contributions.
Immigration: Supports DACA. Opposes Trump policies.
Booker supports protections for so-called “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children and are shielded by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.. In late 2017, he and other Democrats refused to support an end-of-year spending bill that didn’t include a legislative fix for DACA. Trump tried to end DACA last year by executive order, but the move drew legal challenges that remain stalled in the courts, which means the program remains in effect, for now. Booker attended Trump’s first State of the Union address with a “dreamer.” More recently, he sponsored a bill to prevent the Department of Homeland Security from giving personal information about DACA recipients to law enforcement.
The New Jersey senator is also a vocal critic of Trump administration immigration policies that led to the separation of thousands of families at the Southern border. He was one of 11 senators, including 2020 presidential candidates Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., to request weekly updates from the administration about children who were separated from their families. Booker also co-sponsored the REUNITE Act, a bill to reunite separated families. He visited the border to see the impact of Trump’s immigration policies, and later objected to the Pentagon sending troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in the run-up to the 2018 midterms.” Unlike some Democrats, Booker has stopped short of calling for the abolition of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and instead believes Congress should take a “serious look” at the agency.
Race and justice: Advocates for criminal justice reform. Would make lynching a hate crime.
Booker has made criminal justice reform one of his top issues in the Senate, and scored a victory last year with the passage of the bipartisan First Step Act. The law, which overhauled sentencing guidelines and prison conditions, was an updated version of a bill Booker first sponsored in 2015. Booker’s personal connection to the criminal justice system, which he has called a “cancer on the soul of our nation,” goes back more than two decades to when he ran free clinics to help Newark residents expunge their criminal records.
Booker joined the Senate’s two other black members — Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Tim Scott, R-S.C., in introducing a bill to make lynching a hate crime. Booker also cited concerns about Jeff Sessions’ record on civil rights at the Alabama senator’s confirmation hearing for attorney general.
Social issues: Same-sex marriage and abortion should be legal. Transgender troops should be allowed to serve.
In the Senate, Booker pushed for marriage equality and cheered the 2015 Supreme Court decision making same-sex marriage legal nationwide. As mayor of Newark, he refused to officiate any weddings until same-sex marriage was legal; in his final weeks as mayor, he married seven LGBT couples once the state legalized it. One of the first bills Booker co-sponsored in the Senate was the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which prohibited workplace discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity. Booker has said his support for the LGBT community has evolved over time. In a column he wrote for Stanford University’s newspaper in 1992, Booker said that he once “hated gays.”
Booker has also said the president’s plan to ban transgender people from serving in the military “undermines our national security.”
On abortion, Booker and dozens of Senate Democrats sponsored a bill that would roll back the ability of states to limit abortion access. He has also called for vigilance in “protecting a woman’s right to choose.”
Foreign policy: “Re-examine” relationship with Saudi Arabia. Critical of military action in Syria.
A member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Booker has grown increasingly critical of the Trump administration’s policy in Saudi Arabia, especially after the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Booker believes it’s time to “re-examine” the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia and previously voted against arms sales to the kingdom.
Booker has also criticized U.S. policy and airstrikes in Syria, and believes the 2001 military authorization passed by Congress after the 9/11 terror attacks should not be used to justify continued action in Syria. Booker believes Trump’s planned withdrawal of troops from Syria is “reckless and dangerous” but also voted against a Senate resolution that warned against a hasty withdrawal of troops from Syria and Afghanistan.