NEWARK,N.J. - Mayor Cory Booker of Newark was at it again last week.
Eating like a food-stamp recipient to understand poverty, Booker documented his experience on five social media sites. Flirting with running for governor against Republican Gov. Christie, he kept legions of lesser-known Democratic challengers biting their nails. And enhancing his "super mayor" reputation, he pulled over to help someone after a car crash.
All of that garnered national attention, further building the profile of the 43-year-old Democrat whose social-media moves and propensity for the extraordinary have made him a political phenom.
Meanwhile - and unbeknownst to most of Booker's 1.3 million Twitter followers - a political crisis was brewing in Newark City Hall. That's where Philadelphia native Modia "Mo" Butler came in.
Behind Booker's polished national profile is Butler, the mayor's right-hand man and chief of staff, a behind-the-scenes guy who navigates the feudal world of Essex County politics - and the person who recently devised a controversial plan to install a Booker ally on a sharply divided City Council, triggering a near-riot.
Raised in Germantown and Mount Airy, schooled at Murrell Dobbins High School and Franklin and Marshall College, Butler, 39, has become Newark through-and-through. Or as PolitickerNJ.com put it in naming him to its "Power List" last month, he is "the mayor's City Hall eyes and ears" with his "hands on the controls of Booker's day-to-day operations."
Political watchers say that if Booker runs for governor - the mayor says he will make a decision by Christmas - Butler would be a key player in that race.
"If he'd want me to serve, I'd serve with him," Butler said in an interview in his large second-floor office in Newark's downtown City Hall.