Sen. Cory Booker brings presidential bid to Portland
"My people," said Cory Booker, "I love Portland." And yes, he was talking about the vegan eats.
In a fundraising appearance laden with references to his no-animal-products diet, the U.S. senator from New Jersey and Democratic presidential primary hopeful burst onto a Rose City stage for a speech to a sold-out crowd on Sunday, Aug. 25.
Though light on specifics, the former Newark mayor offered supporters a high-road vision of America, where progressive principles would do more than "getting folk woke."
"Policy and ideas are important, and we must discuss them, but ultimately this is that moral moment in our election," Booker said at The Riveter co-working space, 501 S.E. 14th Ave. "We cannot let the darkness dim our light."
Tickets sold by the campaign ranged from $25 to $150 for access to Booker, who highlighted the attendance of a prominent local bookseller and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. The speech itself was packed with humorous asides regarding Booker's love of selfies and the self-deprecating story of how his documentary lost out on an Oscar to "March of the Penguins."
In serious moments, Booker quoted the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and drew connections between the Civil Rights movement of the past and the epidemic of mass shootings in schools in the present era.
The 50-year-old said he is not concerned with his 2% national polling average, noting that former President Barack Obama was ranked 20 points below front-runner Hillary Clinton at this time in 2007. Yet in the same breath, he said the proceeds from the event would be used to hire another staffer in Iowa, where the nation's first caucus will be held in about five months.
Booker rejected the notion that the Democratic primary should be focused, above all else, on finding a candidate who can beat the incumbent.
"Beating Donald Trump is the floor, it's not the ceiling. It gets us out of the valley, it does not get us to the mountaintop," he said to applause. "Let me tell you, Donald Trump wants this election to be all about him."
Booker is at least the fourth Democratic presidential contender to visit Oregon.
Businessman Andrew Yang drew a youthful crowd to Pioneer Courthouse Square on July 13, while South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg declined to speak with reporters while making a closed-door appeal for funds at the home of developer Robert Ball on July 23.
Jay Inslee also appeared in Portland in July at an event disrupted by protesters, but the Washington governor dropped out of the race Aug. 21 after it was clear he would not qualify for the upcoming debate.
Indeed, with a slew of candidates for liberals to choose from, not even the high school activist who introduced Sen. Booker was quite ready to endorse him.
"It's too early to say," said incoming sophomore Finn Jacobson, noting that "Booker's energy will take him far."
Others in the crowd have made their pick. Marilyn Walkey, a local medical doctor, said Booker's buoyant perspective reminded her of former President Obama.
"He has an energy of: We can solve this problem," she said. "He needs to be president."
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