Former Newark Mayor Sharpe James has come back into the public eye after his son lost out on a seat on the city council after a controversial vote by current Mayor Cory Booker. In 2006, after James announced that he would not run for re-election, Cory Booker defeated Deputy Mayor Ronald Rice.
James told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that the vote was illegal and a clandestine attempt to keep his son off the council. James also predicted that Booker won’t run for governor against Chris Christie because of the good working relationship they have had over the past six years.
James said the vote naming Shanique Davis Speight to the vacant city council seat left by Donald Payne Jr. was illegal because the council had a quorum and there was no tie. “There was only four votes for one candidate and no other name was placed in nomination, no other person was even discussed,” James said. “According to law, it just failed for adoption.”
Some reports suggested James was very active in campaigning behind the scenes for his son, but he denied that. He said he was at a community meeting discussing what occurs after a vacancy on the council.
According to James, the vote that caused all the controversy was done on purpose. “Well I think there was a conspiracy of course whereby the mayor, the business administrator, the corporation counselor, his chief of staff — Mr. Modia Butler — the city clerk. All of them involved in a clandestine move in order to name their candidate,” James said, explaining they wanted a 5-4 advantage on the city council, at least until there is another election in 2013. He also said opponents of John Sharpe James might be worried that he would visit city hall since his son was in office.
James said he has no desire to run for public office again, even if he could. “I think that after 38 years you pass the baton, give other people the opportunity,” he said. While James said he wouldn’t run as he advances in age like Sen. Frank Lautenberg has, he respects Lautenberg and doesn’t believe others should use Lautenberg’s age as a reason to defeat him.
James doesn’t believe Booker will run for governor in 2013. “I think that the reason he will not run against Christie is because the state has been helping the city of Newark for the last six years,” James said, adding if Booker did run, he would lose.
Without the help of the state, James said Newark would be in fiscal chaos, which is another reason Booker won’t run for governor. “The state of New Jersey and Gov. Christie has been very friendly and very supportive of the Booker administration,” James said. “You can’t run against the person who’s been very kind to you for six years.” he added that the state has done right by Newark.
The 2002 race between James and Booker was chronicled in a documentary called “Street Fight.” James said Booker paid for the project, starred in it and edited it. “It was his movie so Sharpe had to be a buffoon, Sharpe James had to be senile, a machine,” James said.
James said another reason why Booker won’t run for governor is because he doesn’t want to lose. “I’m saying he does not have the intestinal fortitude to take on my governor, Christopher Christie,” James said.