Newark, NJ–Newark Mayor Ras Baraka won reelection to lead New Jersey’s largest city in a landslide victory over challenger Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins, staking his claim to another four years inside City Hall.
Baraka garnered more than more than 77 percent of the vote, according to an unofficial tally by the Essex County Clerk's Office. Chaneyfield Jenkins received 22.6 percent of the vote.
During his victory party at the Robert Treat Hotel Baraka thanked God, the community, and his campaign staff for his victory.
“You fought hard in the streets and the victory is yours,” Baraka said.
However, Baraka's coattails were not long enough long to bring three members of his slate over the finish line. While members of his slate in the East, Central and West wards finished first, they fell short of the 50 percent plus one vote needed to win, forcing runoff elections in the three wards in June.
In the Central Ward, newcomer LaMonica McIver garnered 41 percent of the vote. She will face second-place finisher Shawn X McCray.
In the West Ward, Councilman Joseph McCallum received 30 percent of the vote. He will face Tomecca Keyes, who earned 28 percent of the vote.
In the East Ward, longtime Councilman Augusto Amador fell short, garnering 42 percent of the vote. He will face former Newark Police Chief Anthony Campos, who received 35 percent of the vote.
In the South Ward, Councilman John Sharpe James fended off two challengers, receiving 58 percent of the vote.
In the North Ward, Councilman Anibal Ramos handily defeated three challengers, garnering 80 percent of the vote, the widest margin among any of the ward candidates.
"During my time on the City Council, I have worked hard to improve the quality of life for residents of the North Ward," Ramos said. "As I campaigned these last few months, I had the opportunity to meet with many residents. I know things are far from perfect in the city, but I pledge to continue working every day with my council colleagues and the administration to move the North Ward as well as the city in a positive direction."
The four incumbent councilmembers at large, Mildred Crump, Luis Quintana, Carlos Gonzalez and Eddie Osborne, were reelected.
Baraka asked that his supporters remain humble rather than tarnish the names of those who opposed during this campaign season.
“Despite what people try to make you believe people do know what’s going on in this city,” Baraka said. “This became a very dangerous and ugly election. It got very personal. The kind of ugly things that were being said. It was really, really nasty and ugly but that is a remnant of the past. Because you disagree with people doesn’t mean you have to demonize people… attack their family and friends. We are not the reality TV show of New Jersey. Do not engage in that.”
“Our evidence is that we won,” said Baraka. “We’re going forward.”
Baraka said he wants to continue to change Newark through growing business development, decreasing unemployment and homelessness and continue to improve the city’s schools.
“This community is not divided,” said Baraka. “This is unity. This city is together. Newark is united.”
“We’re all going to be here together. You are not my enemy,” said Baraka, adding that his true enemies include poverty and white supremacy.
A tale of two cities
Baraka ran on a platform touting Newark's progress on multiple levels - statistics demonstrating a dramatic drop in crime, a declining local unemployment rate, the return of the Newark school system and finances from state to local control, and an ongoing development boom in downtown Newark.
“We’ve made considerable progress,” Baraka said at the final mayoral debate. “That’s why we need another term to continue what we started.”
But Chaneyfield Jenkins painted a picture of a crime-ridden city littered with garbage whose streets were riddled with potholes. She also accused the Baraka administration of abusing power and a lack of transparency.
Chaneyfield Jenkins also disagreed with a major initiative of the Baraka administration -- an inclusionary zoning ordinance. Chaneyfield Jenkins asserted the legislation won’t provide the number of affordable housing units Newarkers need as the city undergoes change.
But voters apparently did not agree with Chaneyfield Jenkins critique of the mayor's first term.
Baraka did not always have the inside track to power in Newark. As a South Ward councilman, he was often in opposition to those in political control, protesting the policies of then-Mayor and now U.S. Senator Cory Booker.
When Baraka first won election in 2014 against rival Shavar Jeffries, he railed against what he saw as outside interests controlling a changing Newark, including Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, who endorsed Jeffries on the day before the election.
Baraka changes the establishment
But over the last four years, Baraka has grown into the role as chief executive officer of the state's largest city, transforming from the angry outside agitator to consummate insider. His election night party held at the Robert Treat Hotel in downtown Newark was a full display of Essex County's political establishment.
Matthew Hale, associate professor at the department of political science and public affairs at Seton Hall University, framed the results in a way that demonstrates both the unique nature of Newark politics, as well as that the electoral game is played the same way everywhere.
“Ras Baraka is a noted member of the Newark political machine and political establishment, and most people think he’s doing a pretty good job, which is why you see these margins of victory,” said Hale. “[Former Newark mayor] Sharpe James, Cory Booker, and Ras Baraka all ran as outsiders. Then once they get in, they benefit from the machine, which makes reelection that much easier. That’s just the nature of politics–everybody starts as an outsider, but everybody ends up as an insider.”
Hale also pointed to how the economic forces behind Newark’s ongoing redevelopment and revitalization see Baraka as more of than ally than an enemy at the moment.
“A lot of the people behind the outside money in Newark that might have gone to somebody else have been pleasantly surprised by Baraka’s willingness to cut economic deals and play with the business establishment,” Hale said. “At the same time, the fact that Newark got control of its schools and its finances back under Baraka is a very powerful thing, especially in a place like Newark. Many feel like the home team has taken over the establishment."
Surrounded by ballroom full of exuberant supporters the popular 90s band Next performed as people danced and cheered. Red, white and blue balloons and cupcakes decorated with the tiny depictions of U.S. Senator Cory Booker, who Baraka referred to as a great ally to Newark, adorned the hotel.
“Touchdown,” Baraka chanted repeatedly. “The game is over.”
|Candidate||Votes||% of Vote|
|Gayle CHANEYFIELD JENKINS||6,314||22.6%|
|Mildred C. CRUMP||16,217||21.2%|
|Luis A. QUINTANA||16,475||21.5%|
|Carlos M. GONZALEZ||12,912||16.8%|
|Dupre L. KELLY||3,430||4.5%|
|Shakima K. THOMAS||1,851||2.4%|
|Hector M. CORCHADO||4,252||5.5%|
|Victor M. MONTERROSA, Jr.||1,262||1.7%|
|Anibal RAMOS, Jr.||4,342||80.1%|
|Hellane T. FREEMAN||158||2.9%|
|Katilia Y. VELEZ||705||13.0%|
|Terrance L. BANKSTON||1,534||29.8%|
|John Sharpe JAMES||2,988||58.1%|
|Jonathan T. SEABRA||328||9.4%|
|Crystal C. FONSECA||294||8.4%|
|Tanisha H. GARNER||127||3.6%|
|Tomecca Mecca KEYES||1,085||28.2%|
|Dereck L. DILLARD||248||6.4%|
|Lavita E. JOHNSON||724||18.8%|
|Marcellus T. ALLEN||315||8.2%|
|Artice K. NORVELL, III||207||5.4%|
|Joseph McCALLUM, Jr.||1,183||30.7%|
|LaMonica R. McIVER||1,796||41.0%|
|Rafael A. BRITO||401||9.2%|
|Rashon K. HASAN||625||14.3%|
|Shawn X. McCRAY||735||16.8%|
|Anthony D. DIAZ||113||2.6%|
|Luther D. ROBERSON||140||3.2%|
|Czezre T. ADAMS||124||2.8%|
|Source: Essex County Clerk|