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'Lackluster Campaign' for Overrated Cory Booker

4:07 PM, Oct 4, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Maggie Haberman reports on Cory Booker's "lackluster campaign" for U.S. Senate:

Cory Booker is all but certain to win the New Jersey special election for U.S. Senate.

But as polls show Republican rival Steve Lonegan tightening the race, Booker is getting an uncomfortable reminder that he will have to campaign hard to defend the seat just a year from now, when he’d be up for a full term.

Booker faces a tough test of the truncated race against Lonegan on Friday, when the Newark mayor and the former Bogota mayor face off in their first debate. For Lonegan, it’s a chance to test whether Booker has a glass jaw.

For Booker, it’s a chance to show he is engaged in the race, and not the celebrity candidate who’s off giving donors attention out of state, as Booker has, during the waning days of the campaign. It’s that sense of distance that has caused the race to close in recent days – so much so that Booker is underperforming Republican Gov. Chris Christie in a blue state.

In the latest issue of the magazine, Scott Beyer reports that Booker is indeed overrated:

A five-minute tirade recently unleashed by a Newark resident against Mayor Cory Booker may not have surprised anyone had it remained a local TV news clip. “We are hurting here, this crime is killing us, blood runs on our streets,” the woman moaned to a reporter, responding to a late-summer murder spree. “The sham that has been portrayed about this city, that we’re getting better .  .  . that is a lie!”

But her accurate charge that murder in Newark “has gotten worse under Booker’s tenure” may have come as a shock to the national audience watching on YouTube. After all, the narrative told about the mayor by the media, even after two terms, has been a ceaselessly positive one of urban revival. Journalists have remained smitten with a man who seems so well-meaning and whose personal story—as a mixed-race, Yale-educated Rhodes Scholar who replaced corrupt longtime mayor Sharpe James—is so attractive. The result is that important questions have been ignored during Booker’s race for the U.S. Senate seat left open by the death in June of his fellow Democrat, Frank Lautenberg. Foremost is whether Booker has even been a good mayor.

When entering office in 2006, Booker took over a city that, despite being a short commute from Manhattan, had been declining since the 1967 riots. His first reforms looked promising: He cut city hall patronage and partnered with the Manhattan Institute on a job reentry program for ex-offenders. He broke ground on several charter schools and convinced his friend Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder, to donate $100 million for future ones. Over time he managed to secure an additional $300 million in philanthropy for other Newark causes.

Perhaps most important were his police reforms. Recognizing New York City’s success at crime-prevention, he hired as director of the force a former NYPD officer, who boosted enforcement on narcotics and fugitives. This, mixed with Booker’s well-advertised willingness to personally patrol the city at night, helped slash murders in 2008 to 67, a six-year low.

But Newark’s success dipped when Booker cut the police force by 13 percent in 2010. Already on the rise again, murders shot up to nearly 100 the next year, and have remained around there since. Indeed, during Booker’s seven years as mayor, Newark has suffered a violent crime rate slightly lower than during the previous seven years but a murder rate slightly higher. Per capita, it’s still America’s seventh-deadliest city.

Whole thing here.

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