Making his first stop in Wisconsin as a presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker said the state is essential to winning the Dem nomination and general election.

“This is a state I will be showing up in a lot trying to earn the support for the voters here,” the New Jersey Democrat told reporters during a Milwaukee stop. “I believe that there’s no pathway to the nomination without going through this great state. And, frankly, when I’m the nominee, I’ll be campaigning hard to make sure we win this state in the presidential general.”

Booker said that outreach will include talking to people from farmers to those in the inner city.

He noted many of the issues faced by those in Newark, N.J., where he served as mayor, are common to those in Milwaukee, a city he said he has visited numerous times.

Booker made his comments to reporters following a discussion with anti-violence activists in front of a packed crowd at Coffee Makes You Black on the city’s north side.

During the roughly one hour and 20-minute discussion, activists shared their stories related to gun violence and answered questions from Booker. Following the panel, Booker took questions from the audience.

Booker pledged during the discussion to take on the National Rifle Association.

While he said he would work to close loopholes that allow people to purchase guns from the internet or gun shows without background checks, he said he had other ideas he’s not going public with yet.

“When I say I’m taking the fight to the NRA, I’m not going to telegraph all my punches,” Booker said. “You will be surprised at some of the things I will do as president to deal with this lobby.”

But he said no one person can bring about the changes needed and urged attendees to become active.

He said people have a choice each day to either “accept things as they are, or take responsibility to change it.”

Booker tied the issue of gun violence, which he said has claimed more lives in the U.S. in last 50 years than all of the nation’s wars, to other issues such as health care, education and poverty.

To address some of these issues he highlighted his plans to lower the cost of prescription drugs, fully fund special education, lower the cost of college, raise wages and increase and expand eligibility for the earned income tax credit.

He noted the nation has gone into trillions of dollars of debt fighting wars and building prisons.

“We have created mass incarceration as our great towering testimony to our collective treasure,” Booker said.

While Booker and panelists grappled with weighty issues, there were a few lighthearted moments, such as when a microphone loudly and repeatedly began cracking.

“So much truth is being dropped the microphone can’t handle it,” Booker quipped.

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