CEDAR RAPIDS — In his first stop in Cedar Rapids as a presidential candidate, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker called for unity.
“I just want to reestablish this idea that here in America, that we not only need each other, we are interwoven into a single destiny whether we want to admit it or not,” said Booker, who announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination last week. “My goal is to run a campaign to bring people together to solve our problems. Please understand that, that unity part is really important.”
Booker, 49, spoke to around 200 people in Cedar Rapids in a packed room at the African American Museum of Iowa. With him on stage were state Reps. Amy Nielsen and Liz Bennett, state Sen. Zach Wahls, Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker, Cedar Rapids City Council members Tyler Olson and Ashley Vanorny and Iowa City Council member Mazahir Salih.
To achieve unity, Booker endorsed a corporate tax that he said would help fund national needs in education, health care and prison reform. He also spoke of the need to address racial inequality and wage disparity nationwide.
Booker’s visit to Cedar Rapids followed Friday stops in Mason City and Waterloo, with a final stop in Iowa City. After Iowa, he has planned stops in South Carolina and New Hampshire, two other states with early presidential primaries following Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses.
Booker finds himself in a growing Democratic field that also includes Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind.; Julian Castro, a Texan who served in President Barack Obama’s Cabinet; former U.S. Rep. John Delaney of Maryland; U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii; U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; and New York businessman Andrew Yang.
In the Cedar Rapids crowd Friday, Anita Gordon, 61, from Vinton, said he has not chosen a candidate. But, she added, with the Iowa caucuses a year away, there’s plenty of time.
“I want to get out and meet as many candidates as possible,” she said. “I like Booker, but I’m not decided yet.”
Linn County Democratic Party Chairman Bret Nilles said while some Iowans have chosen their candidates, many remain undecided as the field continues to grow.
To help keep voters in the loop, Nilles said the party has created a list of candidates — including those who have announced, dropped out or are possible contenders — on the group’s website. The list has nearly 30 names.
One benefit of so many candidates is that it gets more voters involved in the process, Nilles added.
“There are so many candidates with so many different backgrounds,” he said. “I think having a variety of candidates is going to be good as far as appealing to people’s interests and getting people involved.”
Climate change, foreign policy and health care all are anticipated talking points among candidates, Nilles said.
In addition to candidates’ personalities and campaign pledges, Nilles said voters will be paying attention to which candidate seems most equipped to challenge President Donald Trump, who is expected to run for another term in the 2020 election.
Booker said he was discouraged by Trump’s inauguration but found hope the following day in the Women’s March, regarded as the largest single-day protest in U.S. history.
“From coast to coast, people said ‘Cory, this is not a time to curl up, to shut up or give up. It’s the time to speak up, to rise up,’ ” Booker said.
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