Seeking A Seat, a series of appearances by candidates in November’s elections, took place on three days in October at Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston.
Republican Jeff Bell, who is running for U.S. Senate against the incumbent, Democrat Sen. Cory Booker, spoke Oct. 14; Booker appeared Oct. 19.
Democrat Mark Dunec, who is challenging Republican incumbent Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen for the Dist. 11 congressional seat, spoke Oct. 6. Frelinghuysen declined to take part in the series.
NJJN covered all three talks.
The series was offered under the auspices of TBA’s Congregational Learning, cochaired by Alyce Sands Miller and Steve Delman, and cosponsored by the Community Relations Committee of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.
Despite labeling himself “the freshest of freshmen” in the United States Senate, Cory Booker said he spent the past 11 months being “a scrapper for New Jersey” who is seeking “an antidote to this partisanship that is plaguing that institution, where things are just ground to a halt.”
To do so, Booker said he met individually with every Republican member of the Senate and found “appreciation and real friendships across the aisle.”
Booker was elected in 2013 to fill the unexpired term of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg.
Campaigning for a full six years in office, he told an audience of 85 people at Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston on Oct. 19 that the cornerstone of his legislative agenda is to work cooperatively with Republicans.
Booker said he has already won bipartisan support by partnering with Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) to obtain more federal aid for wounded veterans of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Booker said he formed another partnership with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to deal with “an issue that weighs heavy on my heart…, an absolutely broken criminal justice system that is costing us as taxpayers between $400 and $1,000 apiece fueling this broken system.”
In July, he and Paul introduced the REDEEM Act, which would make it easier for juveniles who commit nonviolent crimes to expunge or seal their records, encourages states that try juveniles as adults to raise the age to 18, and bans solitary confinement for children except in the most dangerous cases.
“Right now I’ve got a great relationship with some Republicans on criminal justice reform that some red states are already embracing,” Booker said.
The United States “has 25 percent of the globe’s imprisoned people,” said Booker, adding that “72 percent of the people we imprison are nonviolent offenders.” Blacks, meanwhile, are “20 percent more likely than whites” to receive tough prison sentences, he said,
In a question-and-answer session, Booker said he was “all in favor” of labeling genetically modified foods. Some consumer groups favor labeling the foods on health-safety grounds, while the food industry is pushing a bill that would make such labeling voluntary.
But, Booker said, he opposed the administration’s Farm Bill, because “our taxpayer dollars are subsidizing very wealthy agribusiness.”
“We are at this weird moment in history where Congress is not practicing economic sense,” he said. “We have stopped investing in those things that actually grow our economy and produce a big return, and we are spending a lot on things that do not grow.”