|Date of Birth||27 April 1969, Washington, District of Columbia, USA|
Mini Bio (1)
Cory Booker, elected mayor of Newark, New Jersey, in 2006, came by his civil-rights activism at an early age. His parents, Cary and Carolyn Booker, were among the first black executives at IBM. Booker was born in Washington, DC, but grew up in Harrington Park, a mostly white suburban town in northern New Jersey. He studied at California's Stanford University, earning a B.A. in political science and an M.A. in sociology. He was a star football player and was elected to the student government council. He won a Rhodes Scholarship to Queens College, Oxford, England, obtaining an honors degree in modern history in 1994. He met Rabbi Shmuley Boteach there and became president of the L'Chaim Society, an organization devoted to easing tensions between Jews and African-Americans.
After returning to the U.S., Booker attended Yale University Law School, graduating in 1997. He then started several free legal clinics for low-income residents of the neighboring city of New Haven, CT. Returning to his home state of New Jersey, he was hired as a staff attorney for New York City's Urban Justice Center and then became Program Coordinator of the Newark (NJ) Youth Project. Although professionally and financially successful, in 1998 Booker moved into a Newark housing project called the Brick Towers, which was notorious for its run-down condition and festering crime problems. He led the project's tenants in their fight for improvements in housing, maintenance and security. That same year he won election to the Newark City Council in an upset victory over a four-term incumbent. The next year, as a council member, he went on a ten-day hunger strike to protest rampant and blatant drug-dealing in one of Newark's worst housing projects. In 2000 he spent five months living in a motor home, staying on streets in some of the most crime- and drug-infested areas of the city to get an idea of just how bad conditions were.
These and other tactics did not win him many friends in local government, and the many ordinances, city code revisions and laws he proposed were almost always voted down by his fellow council members. Frustrated at the resistance he met on the council, in 2002 he decided not to try for re-election but to run for the position of Mayor. His uphill battle against long-time mayor and veteran of Newark's brand of rough-and-tumble politics Sharpe James was chronicled in the Academy Award-nominated documentary Street Fight (2005) by filmmaker Marshall Curry, but although Booker made a strong showing, he ultimately lost the election.
In 2003 he started Newark Now, a nonprofit civic improvement group, became a partner in a West Orange (NJ) law firm and a senior fellow at Rutgers University's Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. In 2006 he again ran for mayor of Newark. However, incumbent mayor James, who had beaten him in the '02 election, suddenly decided to drop out of the race. James, who was also a state senator, picked a Newark deputy mayor to run in his place. However, on election day Booker soundly trounced James' candidate, taking more than 72% of the vote in the largest landslide victory in Newark's history. In addition, Newark voters swept out the entire City Council, replacing them with the slate of candidates endorsed by Booker, giving him solid control over the city government.
Booker's first few months in office were, to say the least, tumultuous. Shortly before taking office he sued the city of Newark in state court to stop it from selling city land at prices he felt were much too low. Although the outgoing City Council argued in court that selling the land cheaply was the only way to encourage improvement in the deteriorated inner city, the courts ultimately agreed with Booker and, in addition, noted that the former city council had ensured that many of the recipients of these bargain land deals were developers who had contributed to the council members' campaigns.
Also, an assassination plot against Booker by the leaders of several Newark street gangs was discovered. The gangs, angered by Booker's campaign promises to increase the number of police on the streets and to crack down hard on street gang crime, had planned to have members who were incarcerated in several state prisons simultaneously start riots there, and then have gang members on the outside assassinate Booker while authorities' attention was diverted.
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