NEWARK, NJ - The mayor-backed slate of candidates running for the Newark school board handily won in today’s election.

A’Dorian Murray-Thomas and Shayvonne Anderson were elected for the first time while Tave Padilla was re-elected to the board as part of the Moving Newark Schools Forward slate. The trio were part of a field of 11 candidates vying for three seats. They will be sworn in next week.

In addition, voters for the first time in over two decades, came out to the polls to approve a 2% levy increase to help balance the district’s $1 billion budget. Previously, voters didn’t have a say in the district’s finances when the district was under state control.

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The winning team was officially endorsed by Mayor Ras Baraka, Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz, North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr., over a dozen elected officials, and a representative from Newark Charter School Fund. 

There were 7,041 ballots cast, just under 5 percent of the total registered voters in Newark, slightly less than the last year. Turnout has held around 5 percent since 2017 even though local control was returned to Newawrk last year.

Murray-Thomas won more than a quarter of all votes. She and the team thanked their supporters during an election-night victory party at Don Pepe's restaurant on Tuesday night. 

"I want to give a special thanks to our honorable Mayor Ras J. Baraka for tapping on my shoulder, a little 23-year-old educator and social activist out here in Newark and saying I believe in you and I want you to be on my board,” said Murray-Thomas. 

Padilla, who won reelection for his second term, thanked the crowd saying "There was no way we were going to lose. The people that we had had behind us, [they're] just not going to let it happen." 

Citing general divisiveness in politics, Ramos said he believes that Newark is an exemplar, charting the way towards unity.

“Today was not about us. It was about those 44,000 young people that attend Newark public schools in this city whether they go to a traditional or charter school. They are the big winner. They have elected three very talented individuals who we have empowered and entrusted with their education," Ramos said.

Candidates Leah Owens, Saafir Jenkins, and Denise Cole ran together on the "Children Over Politics" team.

Candidates Yolanda Johnson, Maggie Freeman, Arlene J. Ramsey, Denise Ann Crawford, and Priscilla Garces ran independently.

Johnnie Lattner, a community organizer for over 25 years, believes that the election was in fact, not an election at all.

“I’m upset at the process. If the elected officials are supposed to represent the interests of all the residents, they need to stay out of the election and not endorse anyone,” said Lattner. “It takes the voting out of the process because people tend to follow who elected officials endorse.”

Lattner ran for the school board last year and knows how hard it is to defeat “the machine,” he says, referring to the team that the mayor and elected officials formally endorse. He believes that when the mayor endorsed candidates win by landslides, it makes voters feel that their votes do not matter.

“They don’t have a clue what to do, don’t know what a policy is. Just because you run a nonprofit, work in a North Ward Center, part of that clique or ordained by the machine, does not mean you have the qualifications to be a school board member,” said Lattner. “You can not play with education like that.”

Unofficial Results

Candidate Votes
A'Dorian Murray-Thomas 4858
Tave Padilla 4352
Shayvonne Anderson 4474
Yolanda Johnson 579
Leah Ownens 1447
Saafir Jenkins 1207
Denise Cole 1156
Arlene J. Ramsey 180
Maggie Freeman 347
Denise Ann Crawford 271
Priscilla M. Garces Guevara 293
Budget - Yes 2752
Budget - No 667

Source: Essex County Clerk