The Democratic Committee of Bergen County chose Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a Bergen County native, as its top pick Wednesday night for U.S. Senate.
Booker, who hails from Harrington Park, overwhelmingly took first place at the party's convention in the Hackensack High School gymnasium, besting three of the four Democratic candidates vying for the seat vacated by the death of Frank Lautenberg earlier this month.
Trailing in order of votes were U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, U.S. Rep. Rush Holt and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, who was not in attendance. Booker captured 301 votes, followed by Pallone with 79 votes, NorthJersey.com reported.
“As a person who has experience running to problems, not running away, I want to represent my home county as your United States Senator in Washington,” Booker said.
The immense support for Booker was made clear not only by the number of blue “Cory Booker” stickers worn around the gymnasium, or the amount of pictures the mayor posed for and autographs he signed, but by the praises he received from those who came out to cast their ballots for him.
“He’s genuine. What you see is what you get,” Hackensack’s Deputy Mayor Marlin Townes said of Booker. “That’s what his strength is. When he says something…that’s what he’s going to do. Whether you think it’s right or you think it’s wrong.”
For registered nurse Jorda Piskuloska, health care policy is at the top of her list when it comes to whom she will be casting her ballot for this August.
“He’s always into promoting health care and primary prevention, which is vaccinations,” Piskuloska said of Booker. “He cares.”
The economy and taxes joined health care policy when it came to what many Bergen County residents found to be the most important issues in the upcoming election.
Booker’s star power does not seem to hurt either.
“He’s got name recognition. I think that’s his strongest suit,” Hackensack resident Mark Stein said of Booker, who has over a million Twitter followers and friends like Oprah.
“I’ve never run into a burning building and I’m not friends with Mark Zuckerberg,” Holt joked in his address to Wednesday’s crowd. Holt uses the same line in an introductory campaign video in which he states that he is no Cory Booker.
But, Booker’s evident support did not come without criticism Wednesday night.
In particular, Booker’s partiality towards charter schools is something Bernice Rainieri, who has worked in education for 50 years, calls a “big mistake.”
For former Bergenfield Mayor Kevin Clancy, who donned a green Frank Pallone sticker at Wednesday’s event, it is the laying off of 160 Newark police officers due to budget cuts over two years ago that he disagrees with.
“I don’t particularly like people who lay off public workers,” Clancy said. “That’s the one gripe I have with Cory Booker, that he laid off police officers.”