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Democratic Rising Star Cory Booker Cancels Lecture at UI

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CEDAR RAPIDS Cory Booker's lecture to University of Iowa students was "a real thing" until today when the New Jersey Senate hopeful cancelled his Aug. 29 appearance.

"We extended an invitation back in early May and had established a contract before the end of May," Lin Larson, UI strategic communications director, said Monday.

"But schedules change," he added, and UI received word July 29 that the lecture, which was to be part of the "Welcome Back Week" activities, had been cancelled.

Booker's schedule changed when the Newark, New Jersey, mayor entered the Aug. 13 Democratic primary to select a candidate to replace Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died in June. Booker is considered a heavy favorite in that race.

So Monday, a UI web page with Booker's picture and a biography was replaced with this message: "No Upcoming Lectures Currently Scheduled. Check Back Soon!"

According to a spokesman, Booker's campaign staff had no knowledge of the speaking engagement and it was never on the campaign calendar.

The lecture was arranged through a firm Booker used to book speeches that have earned him more than $1 million over the past five years. UI spokesman Tom Moore said the university was notified Monday the campaign had asked the booking agency to cancel all of the mayor's appearances until after the Oct. 16 special election.

The reason Booker's planned appearance is news is that the 44-year-old Washington, D.C., native is considered a rising star in the Democratic Party, possibly a future presidential candidate. So any trip to Iowa, home of the first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses, draws the attention of the political press.

Of course, "rising star" is relative. A Public Policy Polling poll earlier this month found Booker as the favorite 2016 presidential candidate of 3 percent of those questioned.

Booker is not a stranger to Iowa Democrats. At the 2012 Democratic National Convention, he spoke at a breakfast for the Iowa delegation.

Larson hasn't given up on bringing Booker to the Iowa City campus.

"We would certainly welcome him here on campus," he said. "We'll see if anything gets worked out."

With Booker bowing out, UI students returning to campus may have some free time between their Community of Color Social and a screening of "Hangover 3" the evening of Aug. 29.

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