Former Newark Mayor Cory Booker, freshly elected to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Frank Lautenberg's death last June, says he looks forward to working with Republicans as well as Democrats on drug policy reforms such as eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal yesterday, Booker mentioned Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in particular, saying, "I want to work with him. I take everybody in the Senate as sincere people who want to make a difference." Paul is co-sponsoring legislation that would effectively make the minimum sentences set by federal statute advisory rather than mandatory. "The injustice of mandatory minimums is impossible to ignore when you hear the stories of the victims," he told the Senate Judiciary Committee last month. "I am here to ask that we begin today the end of mandatory minimum sentencing."
Although it's not clear that Booker would go that far, like Paul he has been criticizing the war on drugs for years, both in and out of office. "The drug war is causing crime," Booker told Reason's Dave Weigel shortly before he was elected mayor in 2007. "It is just chewing up young black men. And it's killing Newark." Last year he called the war on drugs "big overgrown government at its worst."
A spokeswoman for Paul welcomed Booker's interest in de-escalating the drug war. "Senator Paul would be pleased to work with any member who believes that mandatory minimum sentencing is unnecessary," she told the Journal. "He looks forward to Senator Booker's assistance on this important issue."