The minute that Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) announced his intentions to run for the U.S. Senate last June, it opened up the flood gates of conversation revolving around who would be the next mayor of Newark. As 2014 neared and deadlines were approaching, the field of candidates began to materialize. After some twists and turns, the race stands as a two man contest: Ras Baraka against Shavar Jeffries.
When talking about the future of Newark and his campaign Baraka has boldly stated,
We love Newark, and we believe in Newark, and we're not going to let anybody from the outside take your city. We're not going to let them take our city! We're not going to let them have it! No! They can't have it!
Baraka has often channeled his late father and famed poet, Amiri, who was around during one of Newark's more volatile times: the 1967 Newark riots.
Baraka's campaign has been lifted up by the involvement of Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop. The Jersey City mayor has been working hard for Baraka and using his name recognition to bring supporters and votes to Baraka.
If Baraka is successful this Tuesday, it would create a partnership between the mayors of the two largest cities and serve as a potential building block for Fulop if he were to consider a run for governor in 2017 and provide Baraka with resources that Fulop could assist him with for the city and his own ambitions.
Fulop has addressed that theory by voicing,
Despite what people think, the only ramifications for me in this race are that I hope to have an independent, progressive partner in our neighboring city. Ras and I are going to have a big platform together to push policies that are important for working families in urban areas.
Fulop would not be the only major name interjecting themselves into the election. After weighing between providing an endorsement and staying neutral, Congressman Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ10) would choose the former as he put his support behind Jeffries providing a major boost to his campaign.
After months of consideration, discussions and thinking about the future of the city of Newark, I endorse Shavar Jeffries for Mayor. Being born and raised in the City of Newark, I have to follow my conscience. This is not about politics. This is about what I think is best for the City of Newark at this time. As a former city council member, council president, Essex County freeholder and now a member of Congress, I have a deep understanding of what kind of leader Newark needs and its residents deserve. (Jeffries) felt that it was important to come back and use those skills and talents for the community that raised him and showed him love growing up. This is about issues. This is not about personalities. There are several (people) who advised me to stay out of this race. They told me to not get involved in local races, remain neutral. But this is about what the people of this city and my district elected me to do. To ask someone to sit out when you've made your decision is unconscionable and shows a lack of leadership.
Patrick Murray, Director of the Polling Institute at Monmouth University, would comment on the endorsement by exclaiming;
There is a lot of good will for the Payne family in Newark, so this is definitely going to help Jeffries. It will legitimize him against the attacks Baraka is landing fairly successfully on him that he's really an outsider, even though he was born here. Payne helps give Jeffries that legitimacy that he's a part of the Newark fabric. And the Payne-Baraka rift will probably continue for a while. Unless the Baraka slate wins and pushes the Paynes out of Newark city government.
The Paynes and Barakas have a rich history in Newark and Payne's involvement on behalf of Baraka's opponent will only add to that history.
These endorsements would provide a growing foundation for what has been an intense battle between a councilman and a reformer. Two different visions for what the next step for Newark should be in the wake of nearly a decade of guidance under Booker. Voters are likely weighing the two campaigns and how they have felt about the way Booker led the city. That will be part of the vote this Tuesday. Part of the vote will potentially involve the roles of individuals like Fulop and Payne. But ultimately it will be about who can craft the right message for the city and thus lead the city. That is what Baraka and Jeffries have been striving to do.