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Booker the right choice for business as senator

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New Jersey and the business community made a smart decision in electing Cory Booker to the vacant U.S. Senate seat in last week's election.

Steve Lonegan is a proven conservative who probably seemed like a solid choice for the corporate community. But count us among those concerned with his comments in the lead-in to the election, when he worked as a cheerleader for those legislative Republicans in the House who were still fighting the health care reform law.

"Hold the line," he said. "Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi — they'll be the ones that fold."

That kind of divisive attitude is exactly what we don't need in Washington. Booker's message of optimism and hope is easy to preach when you have a 10-to-1 lead in money and a commanding margin in the polls, but he's had to be a consensus builder while running the state's largest city. Otherwise, there's no way you'd be seeing the kind of buy-in from players such as Panasonic and Prudential, and a slew of developers both large and small.

Booker hasn't been a success at everything. Crime — long the No. 1 issue in the city — remains stubbornly high, though he completed a number of police reforms that helped put a dent in the figures. Unemployment is a serious issue. But in a time when investment was hard to come by — the most painful years of the recession — Newark was cutting the ribbon on a state-of-the-art hockey arena and laying the ground for residential development, as well as quietly forging ties to big business. Had Booker, and not Sharpe James, been ruling the city during the boom years of the '90s, it's hard to imagine Newark would be so busy playing catch up now.

We're hopeful Booker brings the same sense of cooperation to Washington that he brought to Newark. Some of the items on his agenda, like a higher minimum wage, are distasteful, but he knows how to work with the business community. That will be an important distinction to be able to tout in the capital.

Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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