Longtime civil rights activist Larry Hamm announced that he will challenge Sen. Cory Booker for his Senate seat in this year’s Democratic primary.
“The time for tinkering around at the edges is over,” says Hamm.
Booker recently suspended his campaign for president. But said that he would still seek re-election for his Senate seat, where he is favored to win. But Hamm says that he still wants to challenge the senator.
“It’s a David and Goliath story,” says Hamm.
Hamm is the chairman of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ New Jersey campaign for president. He says that he wants to go to Washington to support Sanders’ agenda.
“I would be a better senator because I’m going to advance an agenda that actually helps working people and poor people and the middle class,” says Hamm. “Sen. Booker has not done it as aggressively as is needed.”
Hamm has been steeped in Newark activism since he was 17 years old. He was appointed to the Newark Board of Education by then-Mayor Ken Gibson. He also bonded with poet and fellow activist Amiri Baraka – father of current Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.
“Only in hindsight do I look back and see that as benchmark moments in my life,” Hamm says.
Hamm went on to form the People’s Organization for Progress in 1983 and worked on issues like fighting police brutality before Booker became mayor of the city.
“Many of the folks who were rooted here felt that he was an outsider,” says Hamm.
“A well-meaning outsider?” asked reporter Alex Zdan.
“Depends on who you talk to,” replied Hamm.
Hamm says that he supports Sanders’ positions like the Green New Deal, universal child care and pre-K and Medicare for all.
“Nobody ever asks when we’re going to war, how are we going to pay for it? No one ever asks. They didn’t even ask that in the debate last night,” he says.
Hamm says that the status quo isn’t working and that it is time for a change.
“On the one side, you have a senator who is the regular Democratic organization…and on my side, I have grassroots people who want a better way of life and I’m going to work for them,” Hamm says.
Booker’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Democrat Lisa McCormick has also filed to run for the nomination. The Democratic and Republican primaries will be held on June 2.