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Election Night Q&A with Mayor Cory Booker

Newark, NJ Mayor Cory Booker ’91 (The Stanford Daily File Photo)

Cory Booker ‘91 M.A. ‘92 is the mayor of Newark, N.J., a position he has held since 2006. Booker, who has been a prominent campaign surrogate for President Barack Obama, spoke to The Daily before the winner of the 2012 presidential election was announced to discuss his predictions, the impact of Hurricane Sandy on governance and bipartisanship and the most pressing issues that the president of the United States will need to address.

The Stanford Daily (TSD): What do you believe will be the election’s outcome?

Cory Booker (CB): I’m very confident that Barack Obama is going to win. I saw the latest polling before the actual election took place and he was ahead in Ohio, ahead in Florida, close but ahead in Pennsylvania, so I feel pretty confident that he’s going to win. And again, often that polling does not capture voters who are part of this enthusiastic surge [of] non-traditional voters — people who are not likely voters — so I have a lot of hope and belief that President Obama will win.

TSD: What can the citizens of Newark expect with an Obama victory, or a Romney victory?

CB: There have been a lot of changes that have already been made, that Obama has done, that have changed the city. Everything from foreign policy — so many of our kids were fighting in Iraq and he’s brought them home — to the health care bill that is really going to empower our city and give more people access to affordable health care.

We have a stimulus program that really did create jobs in our cities and made critical investments in infrastructure. We had a lot of programs that helped small businesses in our city and improve their ability to endure the very tough economy. We had, with President Obama, a lot of women’s issues, from the Lily Ledbetter law to…frankly just standing up for the basic right for a woman to choose what happens with her body.

I could go on and on [on] the ways Obama has already changed the city in the last four years — you know Pell Grants, giving our people more access to higher education. I feel what Obama will do in his second term is in many ways a direct continuation along those issues that affect our economy. We’re going to continue to push for a jobs program that will empower our kids, and then he’s going to deal with a lot of other issues, from immigration to continuing to expand our energy policy so that America moves further towards energy independence.

TSD: What should Hurricane Sandy and the efforts to contain its aftermath teach the next president about bipartisanship and reaching across the aisle?

CB: Especially in my home state of New Jersey we saw a lot of examples of people working together across the aisle. Obviously many of us have heard about [Governor] Chris Christie and Obama working together across the aisle. I think what’s encouraging about this time of crisis is not just the fact that people are working across the aisle but between multiple layers of government. To have the president of the United States reaching out to me on the night of a storm, talking to cabinet members on the federal level, talking to the Christie administration — all of these things have made for a very hopeful time [with] the ability to work together in a time of crisis and with the strength that comes through unity.

TSD: What are the most pressing legislative concerns that the president faces?

CB: We have problems with the fiscal cliff, we have the debt ceiling issue coming up again, and I’m hoping that the president’s jobs plan will be able to include some investment. All of these things will have to be dealt with right away. The next president —  it will be Barack Obama — will have to deal with these immediately.

TSD: What will the effect of a divided legislative branch be on the president’s agenda?

CB: We’ve already seen that…it’s very difficult to move on the very big issues from immigration to economic expansion. The nimble bits of our government in these complicated times seem to be ground down. The debt ceiling crisis is a great example of that. I’m hoping that if Barack Obama is re-elected that it will serve as a mandate to Congress, that the American people really believe in this president and his vision for the future.

TSD: What mandate will Obama have if he is elected?

CB: Well, I hope that there is obviously a mandate for healthcare, you know he’s come out and endorsed a Simpson-Bowles type plan for decreasing our debt, which involves cuts in spending as well as some revenue.

I’m hoping that he has a mandate around immigration and some of the changes that remain there. I’m hoping that he brings momentum on the larger issues that still undermine our country’s effectiveness. At Stanford University for example, you have all of these incredible minds that come and study at our universities on student visas, but as soon as they graduate they’re kicked out of our country. These are the sort of things that need to be addressed and hopefully the president will be able to bring our legislature together to actually do things that actually build our economy, like the visas necessary to keep people here…that will create our nation’s economic growth.

TSD: What are two moments that stood out in this presidential race?

CB: I was actually asked this question on Meet the Press. One thing that stuck out in my mind as a moment of disappointment was during the Republican primaries when they were asked if they…would accept $10 in revenue cuts for $1 of revenue increase. It’s a logical thing to do, but all of the Republicans, Romney included, said that they would not do it, which shows to me that they do not have a balanced approach to solve our problems.

You had major CEOs come out and embrace this approach, you had Simpson-Bowles endorse a balanced approach, but here was this Republican Party digging its heels in the ground and becoming more ideological than practical. [It] reminded me of a certain trend in the Republican Party…as that Tea Party is pulling the Republican Party to an extreme.

The other highlight for me was Bill Clinton’s convention speech. That was a wonderful, plainspoken analysis of what was really going on in our country. And his focus on arithmetic, as he called it, was a shot of adrenaline for the Democratic Party and Barack Obama specifically.