Baraka Wins in Newark, Runoff in Trenton
When it came time to declare victory in his race for mayor of Newark, Ras Baraka paraphrased the campaign slogan that likely carried him into office.
"We are the mayor!" he bellowed to a raucous crowd that partied at a downtown hotel Tuesday night as unofficial returns showed Baraka outpacing former assistant state attorney general Shavar Jeffries with more than 90 percent of precincts reporting.
Baraka replaces interim Mayor Luis Quintana, who held the seat after Cory Booker stepped down last year to run successfully for U.S. Senate. Booker won a special election last fall to replace the late Frank Lautenberg.
Though Booker's charisma and national profile shone brightly during his seven-plus years in office, this year's election was only tangentially a referendum on his tenure. Instead, Baraka's campaign slogan — "When I become mayor, we become mayor" — played on a crucial issue for Newark residents, many of whom see the city as constantly under the thumb of outside interests, be they wealthy philanthropists, educators, the state or the federal government.
Accordingly, the son of late poet and activist Amiri Baraka sought to portray Jeffries, a native of Newark who served on the school board for a time, as a pawn of outside forces; anti-Jeffries television ads paired him with unpopular schools superintendent Cami Anderson and Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
Pro-Jeffries ads, meanwhile, accused Baraka of lining his pockets while serving on the city council as police and other city employees were being laid off.
Baraka inherits a fiscal crisis that has left Newark in danger of being subject to state monitoring. In addition, the city experienced 111 murders last year, the most violent 12-month period in more than 20 years.
None of that seemed to weigh too heavily on anyone's mind Tuesday night.
"We have a great city, an international city," Baraka told the crowd. "Watch out, America, here comes Newark!"
A runoff election will be needed to determine the next mayor of Trenton, where none of the six candidates secured at least 50 percent of the vote. The June 10 contest will be between Tuesday's top two vote-getters: Eric Jackson, who garnered 30 percent of the vote, and Paul Perez, who got 21 percent.
The winner will succeed Tony Mack, who was convicted on federal corruption charges in February and is due to be sentenced this week.
With all precincts counted in Paterson, former mayor Jose Torres had 8,069 votes to 6,515 for city council president Andre Sayegh. Torres served eight years as mayor and left office in 2010.
At the New Jersey shore, Ocean City incumbent Jay Gillian won a second term as mayor, beating Ed Price. And Long Branch Mayor Adam Schneider won an unprecedented seventh term.
State monitors were on hand in some locations in an effort to ensure fair elections.
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