Booker was born in Washington, D. C. and raised in Harrington Park, New Jersey. He attended Stanford University where he received an undergraduate and master's degree in 1991 and 1992, respectively. He studied abroad at the University of Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship before attending Yale Law School. He won an upset victory for a seat on the Municipal Council of Newark in 1998 where he staged a 10-day hunger strike and briefly lived in a tent to draw attention to urban development issues in the city. He ran for mayor in 2002, but lost to incumbent Sharpe James; he ran again in 2006 and won against deputy mayor Ronald Rice. His first term saw to the doubling of affordable housing under development and the reduction of the city budget deficit from $180 million to $73 million. He was re-elected in 2010. He ran against Steve Lonegan in the 2013 U. S. Senate special election and subsequently won reelection in 2014 against Jeff Bell.