SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — With Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) announcing his candidacy for President Friday morning, proceedings in the Senate Judiciary are about to get very interesting.
Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) sits next to Booker in the high-profile committee and the two have long been friends and allies. Now that they are running against each other for the Democratic Presidential nomination, look for sharp elbows to fly during committee hearings.
“They’re both going to be fighting for the same kind of attention and the same type of enthusiasm among primary voters,” notes Dan Schnur, politics professor at UC Berkeley and USC.
Booker and Harris have worked together to pass an anti-lynching law and tried to pass the Marijuana Justice Act. During the Judiciary Committee hearings on Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the two coordinated attacks at times, and together stayed silent – refusing to vote on a procedural motion. Booker even endorsed Harris in her race for the Senate in 2016.
“They appear to have developed not just a strong political friendship over the years, but a strong personal friendship as well,” observed Schnur. “It’s really easy for the most casual of observers to say, ‘Oh, look its two African Americans both running for President.’ But dig beyond that and what you see are two longtime community activists, two leaders in their respective local governments who ascended to the US Senate and impressed so many people so quickly, they’re running for President on a much faster timeline then most politicians. So the parallels go a long way beyond ethnic and racial heritage.”
Now that they’re running against each other, each will be looking to raise their profile and that includes performing in standout fashion in committee hearings.
“Every time the Senate Judiciary falls under the spotlights between now and next year, in addition to the topic at hand, you’re gonna see at least two if not more Democratic senators vying for the spotlight understanding how it can help them on the primary trail,” predicts Schnur.
He says he’s struck by the different approaches of the campaigns. “When Kamala Harris announced for President, she made it clear she was a fighter. She was fighting for the people. When Cory Booker announced, he talked about universal love.”
Indeed, the day of Harris’ announcement that she’s running, she told assembled members of the press, “I am prepared to fight and I know how to fight.” Her website features three words in enormous font: “Tough. Principled. Fearless.”
In contrast, Friday Cory Booker told reporters, “I am not looking even to simplistically beat Republicans. No. I’m looking to unite Americans in this race.” The words in enormous font on his website are “Cory, 2020. Love. Rise.”
In a race where Harris and Booker have similar political views, it may come down to a choice between the two approaches. Says Schnur, “I think Democratic primary voters are gonna say, ‘Are we sick of the politics of division and do we want to come together like Cory Booker’s talking about?’ Or ‘Are we really mad? And really angry? And do we want a candidate who can throw a punch like Kamala Harris?’”