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President Barack Obama called newly-elected U.S. Senator Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, late Thursday night to congratulate him on his win. The call apparently went to voice mail.
"He left a message for me last night which was incredibly gracious after midnight, I'm sorry I missed his call," said Booker.
The former Newark Mayor said Obama "was my friend before he was my president," and said he will never forget his first in depth conversation with the then-Senator-elect.
"He had just been elected senator and we went right to talking about the unfinished business of America, and the fact that there are still a lot of disadvantaged communities that we as a country need to focus on, because the truth is, when everyone just does well in America, everyone does well in America," said Booker. "I appreciate a guy like the President who seems to be concerned in many ways with those people still struggling in our nation, trying to fight to be in the middle class, who might be facing difficulties now."
Booker said he hopes he can partner with the President on expanding the economy, growing our GDP and "making our nation more of a nation of abundance for everyone."
But the Senator-elect is realistic about where he falls in the pecking order.
"Let's be real," said Booker. "I will be the 100th Senator in seniority. ... My first months down there, if not more, I look forward to learning as much as I can, trying to find ways to gain my knowledge base so that I can be a great senator in the long term."
Booker had a sideline seat to the political dysfunction that brought Washington to a screeching halt these past two weeks.
"It's just something that's unacceptable, and I think I agree with what the President said – there were no winners, there were just a lot of losers, starting with the American people," said Booker, who said tens of thousands of people in New Jersey were directly affected by the government shutdown.
It certainly won't be the last fiscal fight in Washington. Indeed, Booker will have a funding battle practically welcoming him on his doorstep when he moves to the district. But Booker is hopeful that he can forge some bipartisan relationships on Capitol Hill, similar to the one he has with New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
"We built New Jersey's biggest city, Newark, back because of bipartisanship. Chris Christie and I disagree on more stuff than we agree on," said Booker. "But the reality is this is my history. Newark is coming back now because of left and right working together."
"I’m hoping in Washington I can really just join with others of both parties who share my spirit," said Booker.
Booker has worked very closely with Christie, the two are famously, or infamously, close both professionally and personally. But he will likely not vote for him next month when he is up for re-election. If Christie is so good, and Booker preaches bipartisanship, why not endorse him?
"Look, I love how Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan in days of old had a real relationship, a real friendship. Would they have voted for each other? Probably not," said Booker. "But their relationship helped move America forward. And that's my philosophy."
As mayor, Booker lived in public housing to raise awareness of poverty and crime. Asked if he will consider moving to a disadvantaged neighborhood in Washington, such as Anacostia, Booker said, "Absolutely."
"I really savor living in neighborhoods where there's great people struggling to make America real for all Americans. And I just want to be in a neighborhood in D.C. that keeps me focused on the urgencies that I'm fighting for," said Booker.
Booker, the first black U.S. senator from New Jersey, will be sworn into office in the coming weeks.