With his election to the U.S. Senate, Newark Mayor Cory Booker faces the question of how he will transfer to Washington his celebrity status, frequent travel and penchant for replying on social media to requests from constituents.
Booker, who beat Republican Steve Lonegan in a special election Tuesday, is moving from the top of the executive branch, albeit at a local level, to being one of 100 senators. That means he has to get used to shaping coalitions rather than being the boss, New Jersey’s other senator, Robert Menendez, said in an interview.
“The biggest challenge for Cory will be the executive powers that he had to pursue the direction of a whole administration versus the legislative process that obviously requires cobbling together or bringing together an amalgam of people,” said Menendez, the former mayor of Union City. “That will be a lot harder.”
Booker, 44, has his own brand of fame unusual for a mayor of a city the size of Newark, and it has drawn criticism. He will be finishing the term of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, whose family endorsed one of Booker’s challengers in the Democratic primary, labeling Booker a “show horse” rather than the “workhorse” they called Lautenberg.
The senator-elect insisted he knows what changes lie ahead.
“I know what bipartisanship can do,” Booker said Thursday after an event where he and Republican Gov. Chris Christie broke ground for a development in Newark. “I’ve built a career on that, and I look forward to bringing that down to Washington.”
Booker will have to raise money for himself, too. He will be up for re-election in November 2014 and is likely to face more competition. Menendez said he believes many more Republicans will want to run in a traditional election year rather than during a special election. Booker beat Lonegan by 11 points, tighter than pre-election predictions.
Booker said he’s ready to take on a fractured Washington.
“I’m going into the Senate,” he said Thursday. “If I break dishes on the way to try to serve the people of New Jersey, so be it.”