Although Friends, Cory Booker Says He Doesn’t Support Chris Christie

The Newark mayor said he is an enthusiastic backer of a Democratic candidate running against the Republican New Jersey governor.

Posted: 04/09/2013 01:12 PM EDT

Cory A. Booker, the Democratic mayor of Newark, made clear that he considers himself a friend of Chris Christie, but that the policies of the Republican New Jersey governor have led him to support an opponent in the race for governor of the Garden State.

Booker acknowledged that Christie’s poll numbers have improved, including among African-American voters in Newark and nationally, largely because of the role he played in working cooperatively with President Obama during in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

“But for me, this is the problem with politics,” Booker said. “It often gets distracted by the personalities of candidates and not the policies of the candidates."

He emphasized his strong support for Barbara Buono, a New Jersey state senator who is running for governor against the incumbent, Christie.

Booker made his remarks at a breakfast meeting Tuesday with African-American media representatives at the Newark Club. The Newark mayor is increasingly seen as a formidable candidate for statewide office and is expected to run for the United States Senate seat being vacated next year by Democrat Frank R. Lautenberg.

The mayor made clear that his differences with Christie, who is widely considered to be a likely presidential contender in 2016, were not personal. While stating that Christie “is actually a legitimate, real friend of mine,” there have been significant differences on policies between the two men.

“If you are an inner-city person, I just ask you to look at issues and not personalities,” Booker said.  “When I line up the issues, clearly I am a Barbara Buono supporter. Why? Because I have epidemic asthma rates in my city and Chris Christie has pulled out of regional greenhouse gas agreements.”

Booker continued: “Why? Because I see the struggles of working poor in my city and Gov. Christie promised that he wasn’t going to raise taxes. But he cut the earned income tax credit and so poor working people in Newark are paying more in taxes. Why? Because I believe in equality under the law and the law of New Jersey discriminates against gays and lesbians and Chris Christie is standing against marriage equality.”

In his remarks to several dozen reporters, Booker lamented the problems that continue to plague inner-city communities. He said that Newark has rebounded dramatically in the last decade, with new construction, downtown hotel development and an increase in the city’s population.

Still, he said, Newark and similar urban areas are negatively affected by the continued gap in income, employment and incarceration rates between African-American residents and the larger population.

“We have a state where Blacks are between 13 and 15 percent of the population,” Booker said of New Jersey. “But, if we went to any of the prisons in the state, our prison population is more than 60 percent Black. This should ache at our soul. It’s not just a problem for Black America, but for the country.”

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(Photos: Jemal Countess/Getty Images for TIME)

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