New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker is making his national debut as a Democratic presidential prospect Saturday by headlining the Iowa Democratic Party’s marquee fall fundraiser.
Fresh from Saturday’s Senate confirmation vote on Brett Kavanaugh, Booker is visiting the early presidential testing ground as he weighs a campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination.
Booker’s speaking appearance to more than 1,000 of Iowa’s most influential party activists is not just a seminal moment for the 49-year-old former mayor of Newark. He is also the party’s first bigger name to make his foray in the first-in-the-nation caucus state, where so far lesser-known, would-be candidates have been working to get a head start.
Booker, who voted against Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, had used his perch on the Senate Judiciary Committee to raise his national profile. Most notably, he made public Kavanaugh’s previously confidential emails about racial profiling sent during his time as a top aide to President George W. Bush.
Booker more quietly has been making contacts in Iowa, with the help of Des Moines lawyer Jerry Crawford, a veteran Democratic power broker who was a leading adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 and 2016 campaigns. Crawford helped arrange meetings in New Jersey last summer with Iowa Democratic leaders.
On Sunday, Booker plans to headline a fundraiser for Deidre DeJear, the Democratic nominee for Iowa secretary of state, who has been attracting other national attention.
Other big-name Democrats weighing the 2020 race have steered clear of Iowa so far, such as former Vice President Joe Biden, who has said he expects to decide whether to run by January.
In a sign of her potential interest in a presidential bid, California Sen. Kamala Harris sent a staffer from her office to work on the campaign of Iowa Democrat Abby Finkenauer, who is running in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District. It’s common for presidential prospects to put aides to work on midterm campaigns in Iowa to acquire experience in the state’s party workings.