Potential Booker exit previews bare-knuckle 2014 mayoral race

Questions, suspicion dominate debate over Booker’s replacement in Newark
If this is a preview of the 2014 Mayoral race, then bare-knuckle politics appears to be alive and well in Newark.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s decision to run for the U.S. Senate in a special election this year has raised questions and opened old wounds in the city he will leave behind if he wins.

The Newark City Council, already fractured from a brutal political fight in November over a council vacancy, now has to choose a president amid a seeming stalemate among the eight sitting council members.

That newly named council president could become interim mayor.

WNYC: Booker’s Senate Bid Sees Support in the Suburbs, Skepticism in Newark

Booker’s Senate Bid Sees Support in the Suburbs, Skepticism in Newark
It would have been interesting to hear more from Newarkers about their skepticism in this brief piece from WNYC, but the headline is, I think, a fair assessment.

But the upcoming election was on the minds of his diehard fans in the progressive enclave of Maplewood. Before and after he took the stage, Booker was surrounded by crowds asking for photos and autographs and offering to volunteer and host fundraisers.

Ellen DeCaro got teary-eyed as she shook Booker’s hand and introduced her wife and son. She lives in Hampton Township and is thrilled to be able to vote for him for the first time.

In Newark on Sunday, Booker’s bid for Senate was met with some skepticism from residents like Joyce Henderson, who is unmoved by the starpower the Democratic mayor has gained from celebrities like Oprah Winfrey.

Booker officially announces his senate campaign

Booker announces U.S. Senate run, creating blockbuster primary race
And so, it begins.

It’s not what Cory Booker was expecting. It’s not the marathon campaign that would have given the Newark mayor a year and then some to criss-cross New Jersey, meeting voters in every nook and cranny, using his trademark charisma to win them over.

It’s the complete opposite: A two-month sprint to a special Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, one with an increasingly crowded field of big names who could split the vote and stop — or slow — his rise to national power.

With that as a backdrop, and the death of U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg as its grim cause, Booker ended months of speculation this morning and officially announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate.

Christie announces special election for Senate seat, mad scramble ensues

Christie outlines special election for Lautenberg’s U.S. Senate seat
This was one of three options available to Christie: an early special election, a special ballot on Election Day in November when the gubernatorial race will take place, or a special appointment.

The announcement is expected to catalyze the Democratic race for the seat, in which Mayor Booker is widely expected to announce his candidacy.

Gov. Chris Christie today called for a special election in October to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death of Frank Lautenberg, setting in motion an all-out sprint for the office but immediately drawing criticism from Democrats.

Christie said the Democratic and Republican primaries will be held on Aug. 13, and the general election on Oct. 16. The winner of the general election will serve out the remainder of Lautenberg’s term, and the next election will be held, on schedule, in November 2014.

In response to the news, West Ward Councilman Ron C. Rice tweeted:

By placing Special Election ahead of November, our Gov not only serves his personal ambition but also sets off political intrique in Newark

Boy, did I ever choose an interesting time to start blogging again.

Booker’s lack of face time in the city has residents grumbling

David Giambusso: The absentee mayor? Cory Booker’s endless travel schedule pulls him away from Newark

Arguably the most prolific tweeter in American politics, Booker has mastered the art of having a presence without being present. And while his detractors take issue with Oprah Winfrey’s characterization of Booker as a “rock star mayor,” based on his touring schedule she might be right.

Great in-depth piece on the psychological impact to Booker’s national agenda in Newark. Less face time in the community means less trust, and it brings to mind early criticisms of the Mayor’s being an “outsider.”

City delivers budget before state deadline, making nobody happy

David Giambusso: Newark council grudgingly introduces $592M budget just days before deadline

The Newark City Council introduced the 2012 budget today, but they weren’t happy about it.

The $592 million spending plan was introduced four months late but six days before a state-issued ultimatum that could have threatened $24 million in aid. It includes $18 million in revenue from a proposed Municipal Utilities Authority that is likely to face stiff resistance from residents.

The plan also calls for a 3.7 percent property tax increase, which represents an additional $217 for the average homeowner.

State Assemblyman threatnens to withhold Newark aid over failed Devils dealings

David Giambusso: Newark Mayor Booker blasted by N.J. Assemblyman for making bad deal with the Devils

“The Governor and Legislature just got done hammering out a balanced budget that keeps our state on the right track financially,” O’Scanlon said in the statement. “Meanwhile, Cory Booker is fighting an expensive personal vendetta with one hand while he has the other hand out expecting state aid. I respect the Mayor, but this situation is becoming egregious.”

“As the ranking Republican member of the Assembly Budget Committee I can not, in good conscience, imagine handing Newark another $24 million when the mayor is continuing to rack up legal fees and costs for litigation that could have been settled months ago,” O’Scanlon said. “The state should not be in the habit of bailing out towns and cities that are unwilling to help themselves.”

Perhaps calling Vanderbeek a “highfalutin, high-class huckster and hustler“ on television (video here) may not have been the most effective way to rally support against the Devils — at least as far as Assemblyman O’Scanlon is concerned.

O’Scanlon cites Giambusso’s reporting on the backstory between the Mayor’s Office and the Devils owner, which can be found here.  The Assemblyman’s threat of withholding Newark’s aid comes shortly after the state has declared the city budget late and set a July 17th deadline for its completion.

Baristanet thinks Cory Booker is a Twitter god—and they may be on to something

Baristanet: Cory Booker, Twitter God

Pundits have made much of Cory Booker’s Twitter presence, with some praising his prolific use of the social media site, and others questioning whether the act is pure self-promotion.

Regardless, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by an exchange he had with an angry constituent on Twitter.

I also watched as the mayor coaxed a resident from anger to action over the course of a few tweets and had some observations.

First, Baristanet blogger Christina Gillham asks whether the mayor is using the service as self-promotion or civic engagement. I don’t think that’s an either-or question. Politicians, by nature of their work, are going to be promoted by their civic engagement. Replace “Twitter” with “a press conference” or “community meeting” and the question becomes absurd—the answer is: both.

This level of engagement does make constituents feel as though their voices are being heard—apparent from the complimentary retweets the mayor shares. I’ve had similar experience reaching out to the mayor about issues in the city. He’s responded back cordially and quickly, and it felt good knowing someone was hearing my concerns and taking action.

Most interesting, though, is how the mayor is able to take the internet’s proclivity to complain and turn it into meaningful action.

Anonymity and instant publication are a toxic combination on the web, often the cause of vitriolic debate between otherwise sensible people. But, if this skill of Mayor Booker’s to turn the worst aspect of the Internet into good can be scaled up to motivate thousands, that could have a transformative effect on society. Taking the broken things in in the world and redeeming them is, after all, a rather God-like quality.

If this is the plan for #waywire, then I am much more interested. The world already has social media sites and news aggregators, but one that can create societal good? Now, that would be something.

Booker: UMDNJ-Rutgers merger a “win for Newark”

Patch Newark: UMDNJ Merger a ‘Win for Newark’

“We were facing a developing UMDNJ advisory committee plan that would have hurt Newark and been suboptimal for New Jersey as a whole. We worked with stakeholders at home and across the state to turn this crisis into an opportunity to address Newark’s higher education and health care challenges. Today, I’m happy to report that we succeeded. This legislation is a win for Newark, it is a win for Rutgers, it is a win for medical higher education, it is a win for our hospital, and it is a win for New Jersey,” Booker said in a statement.

Patch reporter Paul Milo explains how the language of the merger maintains benefits for Newarkers:

Language within the law also reaffirms University Hospital’s mission to serve the people of Newark and the surrounding region. The hospital was founded as part of the Newark Agreements, an accord reached between state and local officials following the Newark riots of 1967.

The agreements state that, in exchange for the city donating nearly 60 acres of land for the construction of a hospital, the facility would place a particular focus on the needs of Newark residents. The agreements lacked the force of law, and still would under the restructuring, but many of their objectives are explicitly stated in the act passed last week, lending them even more weight than they had previously.

#waywire Landing Page

#waywire Landing Page
My, that’s a lot of magenta and Futura.

The landing page for #waywire, the mayor’s new social networking startup, features a sign-up to get an invite when the site officially launches. The introduction video was shot (predominantly?) at Washington Square Park in New York City.  The “interviewees” are spouting tired, if accurate, clichés about the failings of mass media.

Mayor Booker has over a million followers on Twitter, so he can net some quick users to  the site through brute-force marketing.  But, speaking as a tech enthusiast, this is an inauspicious start, and I’m skeptical that it will stand the test of time with fierce competition in the social news and aggregation space.

Oh, and what does this mean for Newarkers?  Practically nil.  This project appears to be a broadening of the mayor’s national profile.