Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, a Democratic presidential candidate, speaks during a campaign event Saturday evening at Thompson’s Point in Portland. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker urged voters to stand up for their values and work to improve their country in the “moral moment” America is facing during a campaign stop Saturday evening in Portland.

“Don’t tell me we just need to get Trump out of office; we have a lot more to do,” the New Jersey senator told a crowd of about 250 people in a converted warehouse at Thompson’s Point.

Booker swung through Maine after the New Hampshire Democratic state convention, where he appeared with several other candidates for the party’s nomination in the 2020 election.

The brief stop was to raise Booker’s profile in Maine and recruit volunteers for his campaign in the state and New Hampshire. Booker is the fourth presidential candidate to come through Maine in recent weeks. Last weekend, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders held a rally at the State Theatre in Portland.

A mixed crowd of younger and older voters sipped beer and wine before the event kicked off with Booker’s introduction by Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling.

Christina Bouchard, 33, of Portland said she hadn’t picked a candidate to support, but she knew Booker from the contentious Senate confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“I appreciate how he stands up for women and I want to see how far he can take it,” Bouchard said.

Other voters said it was too early in the campaign to make a choice for candidate. Twenty Democrats are vying for their party’s nomination and Booker has 3 percent voter support, according to a poll released this past week from Politico/Morning Consult.

But Pat and Marilyn Fleming of Wells said they supported Booker as soon as he announced.

“I like his positive message,” said Pat Fleming, 67. “I think he would be a good person for that office after the past two years.”

Booker delivered an impassioned address that lasted about 35 minutes. He skimmed over his policy issues, such as licensing for gun ownership, tax credits for renters, and addressing carbon pollution with next-generation clean nuclear power.

But the attitude and outlook of the nominee, not his or her plans, are going to swing the election, Booker said.

“I know for a fact that the person with the best policies does not necessarily win elections,” he told the crowd.

President Trump is committing “moral vandalism” every day in the White House, but beating him cannot be the Democrats’ only priority, Booker said. In a time of intense division, violence and hatred, the party’s candidate has to get people to unify behind a message of togetherness and hope for a better future for everyone, he said.

“We cannot win this election by what we are against; it has to be what we are for,” Booker told the crowd.

He related the story of how hard it was for his parents to buy a home when they moved to New Jersey because of racist real estate policies, and how white friends and activists stood up to support and aid them. The same issues and more challenges, such as gun violence, still confront America, Booker said. Citizens have to be willing to work hard – like people did in the civil rights and other social movements – to make the country into what they want, he said.

His remarks drew strong applause and some thunderous cheers, particularly when he addressed mass shootings and said that removing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from office should be a top priority in next year’s election.

If nominated, he would ask more of his supporters than any other candidate in history, Booker said.

“We will not win this election by showing the worst of who we are; we will win this election by showing the best of who we are,” he said.

Dozens of people stuck around after Booker’s speech to take selfies with the candidate, who also invited hugs from the audience.

Adrian Smith, 30, of Portland said he appreciated the perspective Booker brought to the campaign and supported his overall message.

“As the only African-American man running for president, it is important that people hear what he has to say,” Smith said.

His friend Sandra Benson, 39, liked that Booker did not focus too much on himself.

“It was not an ego-driven speech; it was a mission-driven speech,” she said.


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