Booker Skips NAACP Debate; Will Attend Fundraiser with Oprah Instead

By David Cruz
NJ Today

Newark Mayor Cory Booker was in retail politics mode today, visiting a key demographic for Democrats — seniors. With about two weeks to go before primary Election Day, Booker remains comfortably ahead in a field of four Democrats. But his decision to forgo tonight’s NAACP-sponsored event — in Newark — in favor of a $1,000 a head fundraiser with Oprah Winfrey has drawn criticism from his opponents. Ironic, some suggest, that he would skip an opportunity to debate his opponents in his own backyard.

“At the end of the day, this is a short campaign,” he said today. “We’re running around doing a lot of things and I have to balance all of that with being mayor, which you know is an intense 24/7 job, so we’re fitting as much as we can in. One of the things we agreed to is to do the same amount of debates that Frank Lautenberg did in his last campaign, and we’re doing two major debates.”

Booker, whose national celebrity status and million-plus Twitter followers has rubbed some Democrats the wrong way, has had a tough going in his own home town over the past two years. Some have suggested that he’s been keeping a low profile there in order to avoid his local critics, who are ready to pounce on the image of Booker hobnobbing with Oprah Winfrey while his opponents discuss the issues.

We asked if he could understand the criticism. “No, I can’t imagine it,” he responded. “Folks in Newark have been engaging with me for 15 years. Folks in my city know me and know me on the issues, so we’re gonna spend a long day on Saturday all around Newark, visiting folks and having these kinds of conversations.”

Booker says he never planned to run the kind of sprint he’s been forced to run, but says he’s comfortable that New Jersey voters will have ample opportunity to get to know him and what he stands for.