Cory Booker ’91, M.A. ’92 bows out of 2020 presidential race

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Senator Cory Booker B.A ’91, M.A. ’92 (D-N.J.) dropped out of the 2020 Democratic primary on Monday morning, one day before the January debate. 

The Stanford alumnus ran on a message of unity and love, positioning himself as the successor to former President Barack Obama and the balm to heal a divided nation, but never managed to break through in the polls. 

His departure leaves the field with only two candidates of color, former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick and entrepreneur Andrew Yang, in what was initially heralded as a historically diverse Democratic primary. 

The end of Booker’s campaign — and that of former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro ’96, who dropped out of the race at the beginning of this month — also means that only one Stanford alumnus remains in the race: Tom Steyer M.B.A. ’87, a billionaire philanthropist and former hedge fund executive whose deep pockets have allowed him to finance frequent television advertising that Booker’s shoestring operation could not afford. 

Booker, long considered a rising star in the Democratic party, campaigned largely on progressive policies that would have helped cities like Newark, where he famously lived in the inner city while serving as mayor. He offered clemency for thousands of non-violent drug offenders, proposed the creation of government-run savings accounts for every child born in the United States and pushed for aggressive gun control reform, becoming the first 2020 candidate to suggest a national gun-licensing program. 

But Booker was unable to break out in a crowded field focused more on offering fiery resistance to President Donald Trump than reaching across the partisan divide. Booker struggled to raise money and consistently polled in the low single digits, failing to meet the polling requirements needed to participate in Tuesday’s debate. 

On Monday, he thanked his staff and supporters, pledging to commit himself to the eventual Democratic nominee. 

“So now I recommit myself to the work,” he said in a video posted to Twitter. “I can’t wait to get back on the campaign trail and campaign as hard as I can for whoever is the eventual nominee and for candidates up and down the ballot.”

At Stanford, Booker was senior class president, a football player and a Bridge peer counselor whose former classmates describe him as “every bit as impressive as what you read about.” 

“He was super affable and industrious and charming and well-liked by a wide swath of people,” his former co-president Elizabeth Lambird Youngblood ’91 told The Daily. “Athletes loved him, and he also just had already begun a whole history of service.”

Booker worked to diversify the Bridge Peer Counseling Center, creating specialized programs for black and Asian students and leading counseling services for black students himself. 

He and other first responders were also able to talk a student considering suicide down from jumping off a roof, an experience he has spoken about on the campaign trail. 

“He was really an engaging person — high energy,” said Associate Dean of Students and Bridge faculty director Alejandro Martinez. “Friendly. And very committed to the mission, the purpose of the Bridge.”

In his coterm year at Stanford, Booker wrote columns for The Daily, including his now-infamous admission to groping a female friend at a 1984 New Year’s party. 

His columns also revealed his evolving views on homosexuality and race, and a passion for championing racial minorities that became a cornerstone of his political career and presidential campaign. 

In May 1992, a month before he was set to graduate and head to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, Booker wrote: “As my ambition rages, as I seek to change the world — Where shall I begin?”

Contact Erin Woo at erinkwoo ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Erin Woo '21 is a Managing Editor of News. A communications major and creative writing minor, she plans to pursue a career in journalism. She has also reported for The Mercury News and WNYC. Contact her at erinkwoo 'at' stanford.edu.