Newark Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins became the first mayoral candidate to be officially certified to be on the ballot for the upcoming 2018 municipal elections, according to her campaign.
“I’m pleased to announce that as of [Monday, Feb. 5] I am officially certified as a candidate for Mayor of Newark," said Chaneyfield Jenkins. "I want to extend my greatest appreciation to all my supporters and to my slate of candidates. I am committed to continuing my charge as an elected official by serving the people and ensuring that every Newark resident receives the highest quality of services available to them."
Chaneyfield Jenkins submitted "far more than enough" successful petitions in excess of the more than 1,437 petitions needed to get on the ballot, according to campaign manager Pablo Fonseca. She is now in the process of assembling a full nine-person state to take on incumbent Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, who was elected to head New Jersey's largest city in 2014.
According to Fonseca, the Chaneyfield Jenkins slate currently includes six members. Three slate members are running for Council-at-large positions out of Newark's four at-large council seats: former North Ward Councilman Hector Corchado, forrmer Councilwoman-at-Large Bessie Walker, and Ariagna Perello, a former Newark school board chair.
The other slate members are running for three ward positions out of Newark's five ward council seats. Katilia Velez, former director of development at the non-profit Ironbound Community Corporation, will run in the North Ward. Mecca Keyes, the Newark NAACP economic development chairperson, will run in the West Ward. School board member Crystal Fonseca, who is Pablo Fonseca's daughter, will run in the East Ward.
"We are continuing to interview candidates to fill our slate," Fonseca told TAPinto Newark.
Four out of six members on the Chaneyfield Jenkins slate are women, a marked difference from the generally male-dominated nature of Newark politics. If elected, Chaneyfield Jenkins will be the first female mayor of Newark.
While she remains an underdog in the 2018 mayoral race, Chaneyfield Jenkins is no newcomer to the tough-as-nails Newark political scene.
She first served on the Municipal Council from 1995 to 2006, aligned with then-Mayor Sharpe James. After being ousted in the clean sweep of now-U.S. Sen. Cory Booker's municipal slate in 2006, she regained her council seat in 2014, running on Baraka's successful ticket.
While Baraka and Chaneyfield Jenkins worked together in 2014 to ensure her victory over then-Central Ward Councilman Darrin Sharif in a runoff election, relations between the two prominent Newark politicos have definitively soured.
Issues such as crime, education and redevelopment are critical talking points in any Newark municipal election. The battle between Baraka and Chaneyfield Jenkins will be no different: the mayoral race rivals have publicly taken different stances about these concerns.
Baraka and Chaneyfield Jenkins notably waged a war of words at an August city council meeting on an issue that will shape the state of the city's ongoing redevelopment: inclusionary zoning for future building projects.
The dynamic of the 2018 Newark mayoral race, however, will also be shaped by two unforeseen factors.
A series of legal controversies have swarmed around Newark City Hall in recent months. These concerns include a whistleblower lawsuit filed by Willie Parker, the former Corporation Counsel, against Mayor Baraka, his brother and chief of staff, Amiri Baraka, Jr., and other city officials, tied to concerns stemming from a proposed deal to build a new Department of Public Works garage. Two close associates of the mayor have also recently plead guilty to federal tax evasion charges.
Allegations of sexual assault and harassment have recently been made against against Obalaji Baraka, the mayor's older brother, by a female former city employee.
A female Newark firefighter also came forward last month with allegations of sexual harassment, gender discrimination and retaliation at the Newark Fire Division.
Repeated complaints regarding the discrimination to Amiri Baraka, Jr., Mayor Baraka's younger brother, were allegedly went ignored.
The women have come forward with allegations of sexual harassment in the post-#MeToo environment in which women are breaking their silence about sexual abuse.
Chaneyfield Jenkins previously told TAPinto Newark that she decided to run for mayor in part to stop what she alleges is an ongoing pattern of sexual assault and harassment that is the Baraka administration's "dirty little secret."