Sen. Cory Booker is running for president in 2020. Here's where he stands on key issues

  • Booker's announcement envisioned an American ideal "where our criminal justice system keeps us safe, instead of shuffling more children into cages and coffins."
  • He has called federal drug policy a decades-long failure. In 2017, he introduced the Marijuana Justice Act, which would legalize pot at the federal level.
  • In October, Booker announced legislation that would give an interest-accruing savings account to every American newborn.
U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) seen speaking during the Open Markets Institute's conference, A Right to Compete: Are Monopolies Crushing Entrepreneurship in Washington, DC.
Michael Brochstein | LightRocket | Getty Images
U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) seen speaking during the Open Markets Institute's conference, A Right to Compete: Are Monopolies Crushing Entrepreneurship in Washington, DC.

Sen. Cory Booker on Friday became the latest Democrat to announce that he will run for president in 2020.

New Jersey's Booker, 49, joined the Senate in 2013 after rising to national prominence as the mayor of Newark. He has grabbed headlines for his legislative efforts as well as his work on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Now his policy positions will come into focus as the press, voters and his rivals dig into his record. His announcement Friday morning laid out few specifics, but nonetheless identified a few areas of concern, notably criminal justice reform.

Booker said he envisions an American ideal "where our criminal justice system keeps us safe, instead of shuffling more children into cages and coffins."

He has also taken aim squarely at President Donald Trump as he mounted his bid. But before he earns a chance to take on the president head to head, he'll have to distinguish himself from with the growing field of Democratic contenders.

Here's where Booker stands on some key political issues as the 2020 race kicks off.

Criminal justice reform

Booker played a pivotal role in the passage of one of the First Step Act, one of the Senate's few bipartisan legislative success stories in 2018. The law implements measures designed to reduce recidivism and offers some protections against severe mandatory minimum sentences.

"This is literally one of the reasons I came to the United States Senate, to get something like this done," Booker said when the bill passed in December.

Booker has focused on reforming America's prisons and justice system throughout his political career. During his five years in the Senate, he pushed a number of criminal-justice bills intended to boost transparency in law enforcement, ban juvenile solitary confinement and lower employment barriers for people leaving jail.

Drug policy

Booker has called federal drug policy a decades-long failure. In 2017, he introduced the Marijuana Justice Act, which would legalize pot at the federal level.

Marijuana is already legal for recreational use in 10 states, and lawmakers in Booker's home state of New Jersey have made recent moves to join them. But it remains outlawed at the federal level as a Schedule 1 drug, alongside heroin and ecstasy.

Booker's proposal would remove pot from that list, as well as encourage states to "change their marijuana laws if those laws were shown to have a disproportionate effect on low-income individuals and/or people of color."

More recently, Booker grilled Trump's attorney general nominee, William Barr, during his confirmation hearing on federal marijuana policy and what he described as the social and racial biases arising from it.

Booker also criticized Barr's answers on implicit racial bias and his role overseeing the war on drugs during his first stint as attorney general decades earlier.

"Mr. Barr was an architect of mass incarceration," Booker said. "He literally wrote the book. He designed a lot of what we saw."

Business and economy

While Booker was mayor of Newark, the financially troubled city's taxes rose by 20 percent. He worked to attract investors to the city, and raised hundreds of millions of dollars from philanthropists and business leaders, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Forging those ties has also drawn scrutiny from progressive and democratic-socialist groups skeptical of Booker's willingness to take on corporate interests. He was pilloried by those groups in 2017, for instance, after voting with Republicans against a symbolic amendment supporting pharmaceutical drug imports from Canada, which would lower the cost of some medicines.

Booker's campaign website has yet to lay out his specific economic views or campaign proposals.

Still, as a liberal Democrat, Booker has sought to address income inequality, which is emerging as one of the key issues in the 2020 campaign.

In October, Booker announced legislation that would give an interest-accruing savings account to every American newborn. The account, which comes with a seed fund of $1,000, would become accessible starting at age 18, but only for specific uses, such as buying a house or paying tuition fees.

"Everyone in America should have a real shot to succeed," Booker said in a press release announcing the bill, nicknamed the "Baby Bonds Act."

"But federal policy over decades and an upside-down tax code that heaps benefits on the very rich and big corporations have grown the gap between those who have much and those who have little."