Sen. Cory Booker realizes there’s a lot of anger among Democratic primary voters for the current occupant of the White House. He told S.C. Democrats on Sunday that he’s as committed as anyone to defeating President Donald Trump in 2020.
But the New Jersey Democrat pledged that his campaign for president is “not about tearing down any man or woman.”
“Some people say you have to fight fire with fire,” Booker said. “I ran a city with a fire department and I know that’s not a good strategy.”
A week after joining a growing Democratic field for the 2020 presidential nomination, the former mayor of Newark, N.J., made his first official campaign stops in South Carolina, speaking in a Columbia church and addressing a town hall in Winnsboro.
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He brought an upbeat, hopeful message that he hopes will set him apart in today’s increasingly rancorous politics. On Sunday, he cast himself as the son of a poor father from Hendersonville, N.C., who worked so his son could become a mayor and then a U.S. senator.
Booker doesn’t say America is great to diminish a history of bigotry, he said. His own parents struggled with discrimination when they tried to find a Realtor willing to sell them a house. “But what’s great is that we’ve overcome it,” Booker said. “That’s the kind of people we are.”
Booker started his campaign for the S.C. primary with a trip to Right Direction Church International on Broad River Road. Bishop Herbert Bailey, a native of Jersey City, had spoken to Booker earlier and invited him to attend his S.C. church if he decided to run.
“I didn’t think he would take me up on it,” Bailey told the congregation. He called his fellow New Jersey native “my homeboy.”
Booker told the church his campaign would be guided by what he learned in Sunday school back home — to love your neighbor, even those that hate you.
Darion Breland volunteered to photograph Booker’s visit for the church, and was impressed when Booker singled out the cameraman to ensure he got a photo with the candidate too.
“That was cool,” Breland said. “Any good politician needs to be a man or woman of the people.”
Booker continued his campaign with an event at Fairfield Central High School in Winnsboro. The event was billed as a forum on rural health care in a county that saw its only hospital close at the end of 2018.
Booker told the crowd he believes “health care is a human right,” and would support revoking the patents of drug companies that raise domestic prices far beyond what the same drugs sell for overseas, allowing for cheaper generic versions to be sold.
Booker also addressed the teacher shortage in South Carolina, saying he helped roll back testing requirements in No Child Left Behind and argued school teachers should be able to have their student debt retired.
Ernie Nesmith of York said he admired Booker’s hopeful vision and identified with the senator’s story of success.
“When I was growing up, we fed the chickens through the floorboards of the house,” Nesmith said. “We grew up sharecropping on a farm, and now I own a farm.”
Nesmith said he hoped Booker’s background means he would “look out for the smaller person and pull folks up.”