Cory Booker is the mayor of Newark, New Jersey and by all accounts he's been pretty successful. He was 34 when he first ran for mayor in 2002 against the four-term incumbent, Sharpe James. I didn't know much about this until last night when I watched the documentary, Street Fight, which was about the 2002 campaign. Booker was not expected to be a serious contender, but he ran an amazing grass roots campaign and missed getting elected by a small margin.
I highly recommend the movie, because it shows what can happen when someone has been in power for a long time. Sharpe James was callous and deceitful, and it was easily captured on film (even though he tried to ban cameras whenever he felt they were being used by non-allies). Even though Sharpe James won the 2002 election, Booker ran again in 2006, at which point James decided maybe the state senate was more to his liking. Booker won easily in 2006 because of his persistence.
Booker made good on his promise to solve the long-term crime problem, something that James never seemed to be able to address. Crime has dropped significantly in the City of Newark, which currently leads the nation in violent crime reduction. From 2006-2008, crime dropped by the following percentages: murders 36%, shooting incidents 41%, rapes 30%, and auto thefts 26%. In 2008, Newark had its lowest murder rate since 1959. And in April of 2008, Sharpe James was convicted of fraud for conspiring to rig the sale of nine city lots to his mistress. He's in jail now.
I've been following Cory Booker on Twitter, at the recommendation of my friend who told me about the movie and I find him to be an inspiring twitterer. His tweets are all inspirational (e.g. “Believe in the genius of your dreams / No matter how impossible they may seem”). Booker has over 1 million followers on Twitter, and I can see why. Last night after watching the movie, I decided to send a short tweet to him saying I enjoyed the movie and hoped he'd keep up the good fight. Of course, I didn't expect any reply. My tweet was intended as a little gesture, sort of like giving someone a thumbs up as they drive by waving at the crowd.
This morning I got a direct message from Cory Booker on Twitter: “Thanks for watching the movie and for the generous tweet. Cory.” And he started following me back on Twitter. Isn't that interesting? Here's a guy who wins people over by walking the streets and picking up support one person at a time, and yet he also manages to make full use of a new tech communication tool as well.
Do I think he's really responding personally to people like me? I doubt it, but that's just because I have a mindset about how politicians (and busy leaders) tend to behave. I hope he's not spending too much time on Twitter, but it doesn't really matter what's going on. He's getting amazing things done in his city and he's found a way to connect with a lot of people. However he's doing it, I hope that Mitch Landrieu will pay him a visit and take some notes.