The mayor of New Jersey’s largest city brought a packed Democratic state convention to its feet on Friday with a rousing speech that ripped fellow Democrats for not being more progressive.

“The problem with us is we focus too much on Donald trump […] and the problem with that is it lets everybody else off the hook,” Ras Baraka said in a fiery address that often quoted scripture and civil rights leaders.

Baraka addressed just a single fellow Democrat by name: Michael Saudino, who hours later resigned from his elected position as Bergen County sheriff.

Saudino’s resignation came a day after WNYC released secretly recorded audio of Saudino making bigoted comments about black people and the state’s Sikh attorney general.

Gov. Phil Murphy and every top elected Democrat from Bergen County called on Saudino, who had been a Republican until the 2016 election, to step down.

While Baraka did not name others, he did not need to. The convention in Atlantic City went ahead without the attendance of some of the state's top Democratic officials, most notably Senate President Steve Sweeney.

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Since Murphy’s election, the governor’s biggest foil has not been a Republican but Sweeney, a fellow Democrat. Sweeney is upset that the state party sided with Murphy in his budget battle with the Democratic-led Legislature.

Also absent were Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg.

Baraka said that the focus on Trump gives cover to other Republicans who are “riding a wave of evil and inhumanity.”

“More importantly, it hides the so-called Democrats in our party who barricade themselves in with hypocrisy,” he said. “Those Democrats — we know their names — that are working to destroy this party nationally and locally in this state. That are more interested in power for them than they are empowering the people.

“That make our governor their target as opposed to poverty and inequality.”

While Murphy campaigned on taxing millionaires, raising the minimum wage and legalizing recreational marijuana, the more centrist Democratic lawmakers have not rushed to implement his agenda.

“Here, where lifting the wages for the poor is a complex and lethargic task for our legislators while taxing the rich is something we do with trepidation and cautiousness,” Baraka said, describing the state as “deeply segregated by race and by class.”

Baraka also addressed immigration policy, saying “you can’t be against Trump and be against immigrants and sanctuary cities or make deals with those who seek to punish or penalize them.”

"In fact, you shouldn't even call yourself a damn Democrat," he added.

Democratic officials in Hudson, Bergen and Essex counties have been taking heat from immigrant advocates for striking million-dollar deals with federal immigration officials in order to house detainees in the county jails.

Baraka ended with a call to “break up the system of bosses in New Jersey” and get out the vote for a election in which New Jersey Republicans are fighting to hold onto their Congressional seats while Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez is struggling to keep his.

“And in November, we’ll show them not just the power of Democrats but the power of God, the power of right over wrong, of good over evil, of what is just over what is unjust," Baraka thundered. "In November, we take back this country now and forever more. In November we tear those walls down.”

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email

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