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Sen. Booker launches 2020 presidential bid

Free Press wire reports | 2/8/2019, 6 a.m.
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker declared his bid for the presidency in 2020 with a sweeping call to unite a deeply ...

WASHINGTON

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker declared his bid for the presidency in 2020 with a sweeping call to unite a deeply polarized nation around a “common purpose.”

Announcing his run on Friday, Feb. 1, the first day of Black History Month, the New Jersey Democrat is the second African-American candidate in a primary field that’s already historically diverse. He delivered his message of unity amid an era marked by bitter political division.

The day of his announcement underscored his consequential status as America’s potential second African-American president.

“I believe that we can build a country where no one is forgotten, no one is left behind; where parents can put food on the table; where there are good paying jobs with good benefits in every neighborhood; where our criminal justice system keeps us safe, instead of shuffling more children into cages and coffins; where we see the faces of our leaders on television and feel pride, not shame,” Sen. Booker said in a video message to supporters, subtly jabbing at President Trump.

“It is not a matter of can we. It’s a matter of do we have the collective will, the American will?” he added. “I believe we do.”

Sen. Booker enters what’s shaping up to be a crowded presidential primary, with three of his fellow Democratic senators —Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York — already either declared or exploring a run. But he has spent months telegraphing his intentions to join the race, visiting the early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina to build connections with key powerbrokers. He already has slated trips back to those states later this month.

Sen. Booker immediately began reaching out to key constituencies, conducting call-in interviews with three radio shows popular with African-American and Latino listeners. He also was a guest later that day on “The View,” a TV talk show popular with female viewers, where his mother was in the audience.

A former mayor of Newark, New Jersey’s largest city, Sen. Booker won a special election in 2013 to replace Democrat Frank Lautenberg in the U.S. Senate and then won a full Senate term in 2014. He will be able to run for a second full term in 2020 while running for president, thanks to a law that New Jersey’s governor signed in November.

But that doesn’t mean the 49-year-old’s path to the nomination will be easy. As many as five more Democratic senators soon could mount their own primary bids, creating a competition for voters’ attention. And several of Sen. Booker’s rival presidential hopefuls bring higher name recognition to a race that may also feature popular former Vice President Joe Biden.

The affable Sen. Booker, known for his fluency in connecting with voters during an age of selfies and social media, also could face some difficulty winning the hearts of the Democratic base because of his past financial ties to banking and pharmaceutical interests. Sen. Booker said he would stop taking contributions from pharmaceutical companies in 2017, the year that he partnered with potential presidential rival Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont on a bill that would allow importation of prescription drugs from Canada.