Former and current Newark mayor vie for credit in Murphy victory

Who gets the most credit for Phil Murphy's victory in the Democratic primary on Tuesday? Credits: Mark J. Bonamo

Newark's political factions who joined forces last week in the Democratic gubernatorial primary are wrangling over who deserves credit for a get-out-the-vote effort that delivered 73 percent of the Democratic vote in the city to Phil Murphy.

Mayor Ras Baraka, whose base is in the South Ward, and former Mayor Sharpe James, who also hails from the South Ward and still wields considerable influence throughout the city, both worked to get out the vote for Murphy on Tuesday.

But which one of them deserves bragging rights for Murphy's solid performance in Newark?

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For those on Baraka's team, it was clearly the impact of the mayor's get-out-the-vote efforts that juiced Murphy's final vote tally.

"The mayor is the king of the city," said Amiri "Middy" Baraka, Jr., the brother and chief of staff of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. "Murphy walked in the South Ward with us right before the election. And this time, our operation was fully prepared. We did our regular drill." 

James, along with former Councilman Calvin West and Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins, was an early supporter of Murphy when Mayor Baraka was supporting Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, who dropped out of contention in October.

"It's irresponsible, disingenuous, and a brazen act of egotism to say that one individual was responsible for what happened on Election Day," James said. "If Middy is going to say that they were the kingmakers, then Fulop would have been standing on the stage giving a victory speech on Tuesday night."

James, who cut a Murphy-endorsement video with Chaneyfield Jenkins that received more than 20,000 views on social media before the election, said the get-out-the-vote drill on Primary Day was a real team effort. 

"The Bible teaches us that the weakest word in the dictionary is I," James said. "The strongest and most powerful word is we. I challenge Middy to suggest that the clergy, union leaders spending their monies, Newark sororities and independent citizens, including myself and Gayle who made videos supporting Murphy on Facebook did not contribute to Murphy's success in Newark. Let's put ego aside and get real. It's not about I or any singular person. It's about we."

Middy Baraka said the mayor's operation had full control of the the South, Central and West Wards. 

"The results just solidified that point," Middy Baraka said. "We didn't have the resources in places like East Orange and Irvington had, but we still turned the votes out because we've got our own independent operation. The Essex Democratic party wanted to prove their point. It's no secret how much money Murphy put out in the machine. That's why turnout was like that. He invested wisely in the right places." 

Newark voters cast a total of 16,182 ballots on Primary Day, with 11,860 for Murphy. The South Ward produced the most votes for Murphy, with 3,220, though the turnout was highest in the Central Ward with 23.27 percent of the voters turning out.

In Essex County, Murphy garnered 35,337 primary votes, the most in the state, followed by Hudson County with 31,000 votes. Murphy earned 56 percent of the Essex County Democratic vote, demonstrating the importance of having the party line in Democratic primaries in New Jersey.

The North Ward produced 2,337 votes for Murphy, though the North Ward's political operation extends beyond the boundaries of the ward.

Samuel Gonzalez, the chair of the North Ward Democratic Committee, said the goal for Primary Day was 3,200 votes for Murphy in the North Ward, 10 districts Central and the three in the West. Those particular districts in the Central and West wards are primarily Hispanic and orient toward the North Ward.

"We had a goal from the Murphy campaign and we delivered as promised," Gonzalez said. "We have incredible and experienced volunteers in our organization who are passionate about helping to elect good candidates like Phil Murphy and the rest of the line A team. But there were many individuals and groups in Newark who deserve credit for getting out the vote for Murphy. It truly was a team effort for great candidates." 

As for Murphy, he stayed above the political fracas in Newark.

"I'm very happy with Newark and what we got," Murphy said the day after the election. "Huge kudos to the mayor and his team and Essex County Chair LeRoy Jones. Amen."

Newark Primary Votes by Ward
North 15,936 3,109 19.5% 2,337 45 134 311 8 31
South 19,261 4,257 22.1% 3,220 40 142 695 2 30
East 8,362 1,393 16.7% 871 34 163 200 7 27
West 17,070 3,606 21.1% 2,610 30 147 654 2 24
Central 16,403 3,817 23.3% 2,882 41 163 605 7 28
Newark 77,032 16,182 21.0% 11,860 190 749 2,465 26 140


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