Newark Mayoral Race Heats Up

By David Cruz

For better or worse, the Cory Booker era in Newark is over, and in the state’s largest city, the political beat goes on with three major candidates already actively battling for the mayor’s job, even though election day is in May. Today the three frontrunners — Ras Baraka, Shavar Jeffries and Anibal Ramos — were on the stump with Baraka boasting an endorsement from former Gov. Richard Codey.

“There’s these power brokers out there gonna tell you what to do, and if you don’t do what you’re supposed to do you’re gonna get it. Well, he’s independent. You don’t have to worry about this jive stuff and all that other garbage. That ain’t happening,” Codey said.

That’s a not so subtle dig at the Essex County Democratic political establishment, specifically County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, who has endorsed North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos, despite persistent rumors that Ramos, who most polls suggest would be in a runoff in May, will eventually drop out.

“The only people that want us to drop out of this race, as I’ve said from day one, are our opposition. We’re running strong, we’re raising money and most importantly, we’re getting our message out,” Ramos said.

DiVincenzo did not return our calls today but sources say he is concerned about Ramos’ inability to gain momentum beyond his political base. Bubbling under the surface here is a growing political rift between the black and Latino communities in Newark, coalition that goes back to the late 1960s.

“The reality is that when you’re the mayor, you’re the mayor of the entire city, right? It doesn’t matter what ward you’re in. In fact we have to get rid of this old ward politics that kind of really uplifts the political bosses and not the people of our community. Our city is made up of neighborhoods,” Baraka said.

Former Assistant Attorney General Jeffries, who some observers see as a viable alternative to Baraka, would benefit greatly if Ramos drops out of the race. He says he doesn’t care if Ramos drops out, though he rarely takes a shot at him, saving his most pointed barbs for Baraka.

“While he is engaging in these sort of theatrics, we have a South Ward that, under his watch, murders have gone up 70 percent. If murder is flat, that’s ineffective. A 70 percent increase in murders is of historic proportions,” Jeffries said.

After eight years as a laboratory for Booker’s social media driven new age political philosophies, Newark’s next mayor will be the anti-Booker, which — depending on where you stand — will be either a big letdown or a breath of fresh air.

Election day is more than three months away, but it’s never too early to run for mayor in Newark. I asked one insider if the gloves had come off in this race. He said, they’ve never been on.