Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker is the heavy favorite to win the Democratic nomination in the special primary election Tuesday to replace Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who died June 3 in office.
Booker, who has made a name for himself by responding to constituents via the social media site Twitter, has been able to out-fundraise his opponents, which include Rep. Frank Pallone, Rep. Rush Holt and state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver. Booker earned 54 percent in the most recent Quinnipiac University poll, compared to just 17 percent for Pallone, 15 percent for Holt and 5 percent for Oliver.
"I don't want to just go down there and become a part of the system. I want to change it and create change for real people," Booker told NBC News Monday. "There's in some ways a lack of imagination on a lot of people's parts."
The popular mayor, credited with getting Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to donate $100 million to Newark schools, one time ran into a burning building to rescue a woman. But he's also gotten some heat for his outspokenness. During the 2012 presidential campaign, Booker criticized President Barack Obama's campaign for demonizing Bain Capital, the venture capital firm once run by Republican Mitt Romney, for undermining American workers in the name of a profit.
"It's nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity," he had said on NBC's Meet the Press. "This stuff has got to stop because what it does is it undermines to me what this country should be focused on."
Booker, who fundraises from Wall Street executives, quickly walked back his critique follow a backlash from Democrats. And a recent New York Times article also raised questions about his business dealings and relationships with Silicon Valley executives.
Despite that, Booker - who is also friends with the state's Republican Gov. Chris Christie - is all but assured to win his primary and the general election scheduled in October. Republicans competing for the GOP nomination are Steve Lonegan, a former mayor of the town of Bogota, and Alieta Eck, a doctor, but Booker trounces both of them in head-to-head polling matchups.