Race tightens to succeed Cory Booker as Newark Mayor
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NEWARK — With Mayor Cory Booker exiting the stage in Newark, the pool of contenders vying for his seat could make for a landmark political struggle in the Brick City.
But some of the city’s leading black politicians are making moves now to unite early behind one candidate, staving off a potentially divisive contest and attempting to limit the chances of the first Hispanic mayor in city history.
According to political leaders, that candidate is Ras Baraka, the outspoken South Ward councilman who upset the Booker administration in 2010 by ousting Booker’s hand-picked councilman, Oscar James Jr.
Since then, Baraka has been one of the most ardent and eloquent Booker foes in a city divided over the legacy of their famous mayor.
“I’m flattered that people think we could do a good job,” Baraka said. “Right now, today, I am going to run.”
The decision to back Baraka, reported last week by PolitckerNJ, and confirmed in subsequent interviews, was made by some of Newark’s biggest and oldest political names: Former Mayor Sharpe James, State Sen. Ron Rice Sr.(D-Essex) and former Council members Donald Bradley and Bessie Walker were among the city elders to give Baraka the nod.
“It’s probably the last gasp of politicians that unified in Newark in the late 1960s,” said Clement Price, a distinguished professor of history at Rutgers Newark. “The ascendancy of Cory Booker never much satisfied the old crew.”
The elders are part of a group called the Essex County Independent Democrats — a grass roots organization determined to wrest political control of Newark and its environs from the Essex County Democratic Committee, a.k.a, the machine.
The decision to support Baraka is a blow to West Ward Councilman Ron Rice who had hoped to be Booker’s successor.
“My concern is always that we need to have a real progressive mayor in office and in my opinion that’s me or councilman Baraka,” Rice said. “I’m committed to that process.”
Yet while Rice is still officially weighing a run, many say he will step aside for Baraka.
“Ron and I, we work closely together. We compliment each other,” Baraka said. “But we can’t both be in the race.”
Rahaman Muhammad, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 617, and a player in city politics, was originally backing Rice but is also close with Baraka. He weighed in on the decision to support Baraka, saying that unity will be crucial come 2014.
“In 2014, when a new administration takes office, we can begin to heal the wounds that have been created by this administration,” Muhammad said.
But the ‘kumbayah’ moment may not last long.
According to documents released by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, former Deputy State Attorney General and South Ward native Shavar Jeffries is not waiting for anyone’s approval to run for mayor. He filed for his candidacy earlier this month.
“Shavar has a tremendous amount of respect for the elders and as a fifth generation Newarker, he shares their passion for moving this city forward,” campaign chairman Everett Johnson said.
“As Shavar continues to explore his candidacy, he will listen to residents, open up a dialogue and offer real solutions to tackle our city’s quality of life issues like reducing crime, protecting our tax base and spurring economic development,” he added.
Finally, North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos is still well-positioned to win the mayoralty with the support of the Essex Democratic party, and the backing of County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo and power broker Stephen Adubato.
If successful, he would be the first Hispanic mayor in city history. Ramos has not officially declared and declined to comment for this story.
By David Giambusso/The Star-Ledger
January 20, 2013 at 6:16 AM, updated January 22, 2013 at 2:52 PM
Posted by Admin on Saturday, March 16th, 2013 @ 1:00AM
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