Elections

Baraka-backed candidates sweep Newark council runoff elections

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Councilman Augusto Amador celebrates his victory with supporters, including state Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz and Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura. Credits: Mark J. Bonamo
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Clockwise from top left: West Ward candidates Mecca Keyes and Councilman Joseph McCallum and Central Ward candidates LaMonica McIver and Shawn McCray.
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Newark, NJ—All three Newark council runoff elections in the East, Central and West wards resulted in victories Tuesday for members of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka’s municipal slate. 

East Ward Councilman Augusto Amador, West Ward Councilman Joseph McCallum, and political newcomer LaMonica McIver in the Central Ward defeated their rivals on Tuesday, cementing Baraka’s landslide victory in last month’s mayoral election.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Amador moments after enough votes came in on an impromptu voting board set up at the Mediterranean Manor restaurant in the Ironbound neighborhood of Newark as a group of more than 100 supporters cheered.

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“It was a hard fight, and there was a lot of money put into the election by the opposition," Amador said. "We beat them with heart, and we beat them because the soul of the community was at stake. And we’re not going to allow anybody to take it over.” 

The election in the East Ward, which is comprised mostly of the Ironbound, was particularly close. With 96 percent of all voting district reporting, Amador received 1,824 votes, which was 51.04 percent of the vote. Campos, a former Newark chief of police, received 1,741 votes, which was 48.71 percent of the total. 

According to additional raw results tabulated at Amador headquarters, the incumbent councilman, who was first elected in 1998, was up by only 54 votes after the results from 24 East Ward voting districts were counted, with one outstanding. The one not counted – Precinct 8, where Amador lives. The balance of the 199 votes that came from the district went to Amador, according to members of the Amador campaign, leading them to declare victory. 

Help from the North

In many ways that victory was a result of the strong support from the North Ward's Democratic organization, led by North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr.. Workers and funds from the organization fluidly flowed into the Ironbound to help Amador, particularly in the 10 days immediately before the runoff election.

“I have to admit – I was getting a little nervous at around 7:30,” said Samuel Gonzalez, the chairman of the North Ward Democratic Committee and Ramos’ right hand man, to the crowd as glasses filled with Portuguese red wine were poured, spilled, and downed. “But we did what we had to do, and we got the job done.” 

“It was an uphill battle today. We had a lot of forces against us. Campos outspent us four to one. But the East Ward came out in big numbers for us today,” said Ramos, noting that the East Ward vote total of 3,600 was considerably higher than projected. “I’m happy that they’re giving my good friend and my colleague an opportunity to serve for the next four years.” 

Ramos also reminded Newark politicos that the North Ward organization is ready and able to be an electoral force anywhere in the city. 

“We were very happy to be out here today in full force,” Ramos said. “Wherever we can come in and help, we’re going to be there.” 

“This was a collective effort. Win or lose, we were going to go through this together as a team,” said state Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29), whose district includes East Ward. “There is a voter base down here in the Ironbound that is energized and that wants to be heard. I’m excited about what has happened here today, and the future possibilities about what we can create between the North and the East.” 

The East Ward, mostly comprised of the Ironbound neighborhood, is its own insular entity, sealed off from the rest of the city by the iron of train tracks as well as by its own unique political culture. 

For Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura, however, the East Ward runoff results signify the changing political power of a changing neighborhood. 

“There a more people moving in here, not moving out,” said Fontoura. “The results speak for themselves, and show what will be. Politically, we could become the next North Ward.”

Campos could not be immediately reached for comment. 

West and Central back Baraka's candidates

In the West Ward, McCallum received 1,378 votes, which was 55.99 percent of the total vote, according to unofficial results from the Essex County Clerk's Office. Mecca Keyes got 1,079 votes, or 43.84 percent of the total

In the Central Ward, McIver garnered 1,578 votes, which was 56.32 percent of the vote. Shawn McCray received 1,216 votes, which was 43.4 percent of the total. 

McIver and McCallum are both members of the council slate of Baraka, who won a landslide victory over his challenger, Central Ward Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins, winning by a 22,094 to 6,510-vote margin, or 77 to 23 percent. Keyes was a member of the Chaneyfield Jenkins ticket. Campos and McCray both ran as independents. 

The mayor and council will be sworn in early next month.

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