Democrat Sen. Cory Booker has a large lead in polls over Republican challenger Jeff Bell as he seeks his first six-year term, but he has so far struggled to notch a marquee legislative victory to match the high-wattage star power he brought with him to Washington.
The former Newark mayor known for personally responding to constituents on social media and snapping selfies with Senate colleagues has been the lead sponsor on just one measure that passed the Senate. That resolution designated Feb. 14, 2014, as National Solidarity Day for Compassionate Patient Care.
Bell jabbed Booker during a recent debate for talking more about organizing meetings than for achieving results, but Booker points to more than just sponsored legislation as a yardstick of his success in Congress.
He helped secure nearly $12 million for police in the state. He also co-wrote a measure with Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) that establishes a pilot program to assist veterans with traumatic brain injuries; it was included in a larger bill that passed.
Booker said the relationships he has established with Republicans, including Tim Scott of South Carolina and Rand Paul of Kentucky, will pay dividends if he’s re-elected.
He said he’s begun discussing legislation that tackles the country’s declining infrastructure, wants to fix the country’s tax system and believes he can be effective.
“I’ve only been there 11 months so I do not share that cynicism,” he said. “I think we can do those things. I have faith in America. This is not a fait accompli.”
With less than a week until Election Day, Booker has a double digit lead over Bell, according to the latest Monmouth University poll. He has $3.5 million cash on hand compared to $91,000 for Bell.
Political scientists say the failure to pass much legislation in the first year is a part of how Congress works.
“The world’s greatest deliberative body was designed to be slow, plodding and that was going to be a benefit of democracy,” said Ben Dworkin, assistant professor of political sciences at Rider University.