NEWARK, NJ - Mayor Ras Baraka came out in support of U.S. Sen. Cory Booker after President Donald Trump said the former mayor “ran Newark, New Jersey into the ground.”
Booker, a Democrat, was Newark's mayor from 2006 to 2013. He is currently a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that has been questioning Trump's U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, about allegations of sexual assault.
"Take a look at Cory Booker," Trump said Monday during a press conference. "He ran Newark, New Jersey, into the ground. He was a horrible mayor. And he made statements that when he was in high school or college, what he was doing — he actually made the statements. And now he’s talking about Judge Kavanaugh."
Baraka, who is serving his second term as mayor, defended the state of Newark by noting the city's development boom in particular.
“Newark is a national leader in developing new ways to create affordable housing, building trust between community and police, enlisting corporations to hire local residents, protecting undocumented immigrants and bringing the arts to every neighborhood," Baraka said in a statement. "There are construction cranes everywhere, billions of dollars in development is taking place, crime is down, and we have the nation’s fastest fiber internet network."
Newark's "momentum" began when Booker took the helm as mayor, Baraka said. Booker was a Central Ward councilman from 1998 to 2002 before he became mayor of Newark. Now, he’s also a likely 2020 presidential candidate.
"This success is the result of the work of my administration, the collaboration of our stakeholders and residents, the momentum begun by Senator Cory Booker when he was Mayor and his continued effective work to deliver for Newark. If Donald Trump thinks otherwise, he should come to Newark and see the amazing things happening here with his own eyes. It is Trump that is running America into the ground.”
Baraka has not always been a fan of Booker's. In 2014, Baraka, as a South Ward Councilman, railed against Booker saying that Booker divided the city to take power from the people. He also criticized the mayor saying Booker was never around when major decisions needed to be made.
In addition to attacking Booker's tenure as mayor, Trump also appeared to reference a column Booker wrote in The Stanford Daily. In the 1992 piece, Booker wrote that he received an "overwhelming kiss" from a girl when he was 15 and then reached for her breast after she pushed his hand away. "After having my hand pushed away once, I reached my 'mark,'" he wrote.
A spokesperson for Booker told reporters that his column has "been the focus of disingenuous right-wing attacks" that have been circulating online for the past five years.
“These attacks ring hollow to anyone who reads the entirety of the column, which is in fact a direct criticism of a culture that encourages young men to take advantage of women — written at a time when so candidly discussing these issues was rare — and speaks to the impact Senator Booker’s experience working to help rape and sexual assault survivors as a college peer counselor had on him," a spokesperson for Booker told the Washington Post.
Baraka's statement did not refer to Trump's comments that referenced Booker's column.
"Basically, as mayor it’s appropriate to comment on the fact that basically, Trump attacked Newark," city spokesman Frank Baraff said. "So that’s what he’s pushing back on, not that he wouldn’t push back on the other."