Cory Booker, more style than substance?

December 14, 2012

Newark Mayor CoryBooker speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 4. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

The New York Times is out with a brutal piece on Newark Mayor Cory Booker, the Democrat many see as their party's best chance to take down New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) in 2013. 

Cory Booker’s promise — captured in two books, two documentaries and frequent television appearances — was to save a city that had been hemorrhaging residents, industry and hope since the riots that ripped it apart 45 years ago. But a growing number of Newarkers complain that he has proved to be a better marketer than mayor, who shines in the spotlight but shows little interest in the less-glamorous work of what it takes to run a city.

Among other things, the article contrasts Booker's recent heavily-tweeted week of eating on a food stamp budget with the city's continued poverty.

It's not the first article to pierce the armor of the man Jon Stewart recently called a "superhero mayor."

In June, when Booker criticized President Obama for attacking Mitt Romney's venture capital record, John Bohrer wrote in The New Republic that Booker was an "overrated" leader whose unwillingness to play politics and decision to cozy up to Christie had rendered him ineffective. The Newark Star Ledger recently reported that the mayor has been out of the state at least 119 days in the past two years -- sometimes making tens of thousands of dollars for speaking engagements. 

But the Times story elevates the criticism of Booker, until now known nationally mostly for his obsessive concern about potholes and heroic rescue of neighbors. It comes as Booker decides whether or not to challenge Christie, who in the wake of Hurricane Sandy is enjoying the best press -- and poll numbers -- of his career. 

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.
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Rachel Weiner · December 14, 2012