Of the four Democratic candidates for the special Senate election in New Jersey to be held on August 13, Mayor Cory Booker of Newark is leading by huge margins in the polls. Booker, in a poll from July, has squarely over half the votes tallied for him. A Quinnpiac poll reveals that Booker leads the other Democrat candidates by a huge margin with 52% of votes. Not only that, but Booker is poised to win the election as well, with New Jersey voting solidly blue.
But why is Booker such a dynamic figure? How does he command a lead that is dozens of points ahead of the rest of the competition? The answer may lie squarely in Booker's personal involvement in his community. Few political figures have shown such dedication to their constituents. Few have become such inspirations to their communities, and few have connected on such a personal level with the people they represent. The various helpful interactions the "Super Mayor" has had with the community have often been construed as double-minded publicity stunts by some. But the truth of the matter is that Booker has done some extraordinary things in order to truly fight for his community. Few political candidates can say they put the same energy into interacting with their community. Even as a conservative Republican, I can say the Mayor has put in an admirable effort as the mayor of Newark. He's had his failings, but Booker has shown that he cares for New Jersey and its people. And the people now favor him for it.
The questioning over Booker's efficiency and motivations have not stopped nevertheless. Booker has drawn fire over his huge salary for public speeches. But few question him now that Booker donates half of his proceeds to charity. U.S. House Representative Pallone questioned Booker about the improvement he has had in Newark's schools after giving control of the education system to the state. The school system recently received a $100 million fund from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Booker, in a debate with other candidates, said he would "never ever apologize for bringing hundreds of millions of dollars to help poor kids get a good education." Booker has also revealed a plan he has for ensuring the future of those at poverty level incomes. Booker revealed the plan that would provide free Pre-K to children three years and up, raise minimum wages, and provide government sponsored savings accounts for children (potentially to help fund for college costs).
There remains a constant struggle between Booker's leverage of his concern for his community and his oft-conjured image of a publicity hound. But if you compare Mayor Booker and other political figures, the truth of the matter is that he has done things for his city and the people he represents that other people haven't been willing to do. It takes dedication to live and breathe the life of a city with all its problems and pains. Trying to make a difference in whatever little way, Booker has embodied the ideal of the public servant. If more public servants of all political associations would try to become active members of the communities they represent, they would also do better jobs by truly understanding the needs and problems of their constituency.