New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, a Democrat, was seen as a finalist for the vice presidential job, joining candidate Hillary Clinton‘s ticket, before Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) was named to the post Friday. Booker, an advocate for gun-control and criminal justice reform, is speaking at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
Booker, 47, is a freshman senator, the former mayor of Newark, N.J., and a former college football tight end at Stanford University, where he played under the recently-deceased Dennis Green.
Booker won a special election in 2013 after Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a fellow Democrat, died. He won a full six-year term the following November.
He was the first black person from New Jersey elected to the senate, and he’s worked across the aisle with Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Mike Lee (Utah) on topics like criminal justice reform — one of his signature undertakings.
Booker has touted Clinton for president and recently criticized Donald Trump and Republicans after their convention ended Thursday. Here’s what you need to know about him:
1. Booker was Considered a Finalist for Hillary’s VP Pick
The book closed on Booker as Clinton’s vice president when she picked Virginia Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine. Booker had been considered a finalist, along with Kaine and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Other names mentioned in the 2016 veepstates included Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, HUD Secretary Julian Castro and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.
After meeting with the Clinton camp on Thursday, Booker received his orders and headed to Cleveland to “denounce” Republicans and Trump after his acceptance speech.
“I’m happy to do what the coach asks me to do,” Booker told the Washington Post, adding that there were “a lot of qualified people” who could fill the role.
Here are part of his remarks at that press conference:
The speculation for Booker as VP still swirled long after he told Andrea Mitchell, “I’m not being vetted.”
“Nobody is asking you for your tax returns or any of your other personal data?” Mitchell asked.
Booker responded, “The only time I get asked from my personal data is my credit card number when I’m trying to buy lunch.”
2. Booker has Regularly Discussed His Parents, but Rarely a Significant Other
Asked by Oprah if he had time for a personal life, Booker pivoted to his parents. Oprah said, “We talked to your mother and your mother thinks that the reason why you haven’t hooked up with someone is because you’re looking for a woman like her.” Booker went on to describe in depth his close relationship with his parents, Cary and Carolyn, and everything they went through.
Watch Oprah’s interview with Booker here.
The Senator’s sexuality took center stage during his run for the seat. In a number of interviews, Booker and then-opponent Steve Lonegan traded jabs about how important sexual identity is for a public officeholder.
Boooker said he’s straight, but doesn’t mind questions about his sexuality, according to USA Today. Then, the New York Post’s Page Six reported in 2013 Booker is dating entertainment lawyer Bianca Levin.
“LA sources said Booker has been secretly seeing beautiful Levin since she co-hosted a June fund-raiser for his Senate campaign at the Rooftop by Gordon Ramsay in West Hollywood,” the tabloid reported then.
Recently, Booker was spotted with Cleo Wade, a New York-based Instagram poet, and Page Six reported the two are dating.
Booker has always maintained that his parents became the first two black people hired as IBM executives. His father, Cary Booker, died at age 76 before Booker won his senate seat in a special election.
Cary Booker was active in the civil rights movement, and said he raised his son to be conscious of others’ rights:
And in September 2013, Booker was outed by a 26-year-old stripper from Oregon who said the two flirted via Twitter messages.
“He was just flattering me,” the woman said. “It began with me sending an actual tweet saying that the West Coast loved him, especially me. So he replied with that just to flatter me.”
3. Although a Progressive, Booker Receives a Ton of Cash From Wall Street
After the financial crisis and Great Recession, progressives rallied against Wall Street. This year, the Sen. Bernie Sanders campaign for president focused on keeping Wall Street in check.
Booker’s campaign in 2013 raised over $2 million from the financial industry, which concerned some liberals. As the Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce wrote, “Yet, when the predatory nature of America’s business elites threatened to become an actual political issue, Cory Booker leaped to salve the wounded fee-fees of the crooks. Which is why I would not vote for Cory Booker.”
But the Atlantic pointed out that for a New Jersey Democrat, this “is hardly unique…a solidly blue state where many financial firms are headquartered. The two sitting members of Congress against whom Booker ran in the primary have both taken hundreds of thousands in financial-industry donations over the years. Frank Lautenberg, the late Democratic senator Booker is aiming to replace, raised $2 million of his $9 million campaign war chest in 2008 from the industry.”
In an article entitled “Wall Street Loves Cory Booker as Much as Hillary Clinton,” it’s stated: “Of the Democratic politicians thought to be under consideration for the VP slot, Cory Booker has received the largest percentage of his donations from Wall Street. According to Crowdpac’s database of all campaign contributions since 1980, 12.4% of Booker’s incoming campaign donations have been from the financial sector.”
“As the left clamors for Clinton to release the transcripts to her Goldman Sachs speeches, selecting Cory Booker, who has also benefitted [sic] from the pockets of Wall Street, could worsen her position with liberals and hinder her ability to unify the Democratic Party and bring Sanders supporters into the fold,” the CrowdPAC site states.
4. Booker & Friends Launched ‘Waywire,’ a Video Sharing Site that Failed
Funded by Google’s Eric Schimidt, Oprah and LinkedIn’s Jeff Weiner, Booker and tech executives Sarah Ross and Nathan Richardson launched a video sharing startup during his tenure as Newark’s mayor called “Waywire.” It began with $1.75 million in startup funding, according to USA Today.
The business didn’t last long for Booker, who stepped away after he announced his run for senate. It sold to Magnify nearly a year later.
Booker gave his interest money from the startup to charity after critics pointed out how wealthy he was, even as mayor of a poor city.
5. Booker’s Gun Control Position has Evolved over the Years
During his initial run for the senate, months after the Newtown Sandy Hook school shooting, Booker was notably “more moderate” than other prominent political figures in the gun-control debate, according to NJ.com.
It took a massacre in Orlando that killed 49 people and injured 53 and a push by Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy for Booker to increase his political pressure on the gun lobby. He joined Murphy in expanding background checks and closing the so-called “No Fly, No Buy” loophole.
“When it comes to gun safety in America…we are alone in humanity for the level of violence we have in our own communities. This is not a war zone… I don’t care who you are as an American. This is an unacceptable reality,” he told the Big Think.