The inability of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka to turn out voters in the state’s largest city could hamper his pitch to Democratic party leaders that he should be their candidate for governor of New Jersey in 2025.
While Baraka won re-election to a third term in May with a massive 83% of the vote, a paltry 9.8% voter turnout citywide means that 92% of all registered voters in Newark did not vote for him. In that election, Newark, specifically, Baraka, rejected the option of early in-person voting.
Earlier this year, turnout in June runoff for three ward city council seats was 9.4%; in the April 2022 Newark school board elections, turnout was a mere 2.9%.
Turnout in Newark in the 2022 mid-term general election was slightly under 16%; it was at 20% for the 2021 gubernatorial and legislative elections. In the 2022 Democratic primary, Newark’s turnout was 4.5%.
“It’s not as if Baraka is driving out the vote in elections closer to home,” said Micah Rasmussen, the director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University. “At some point, Newark starts to cast a much smaller electoral footprint than either its size, population, or more than 160,000 registered voters.”
Another potential 2025 gubernatorial contender, Steve Fulop, is the mayor of Jersey City, the state’s second largest city.
While the Newark’s population is 19,100 higher, Jersey City has about 1,400 more registered voters. And turnout in the 2022 general election was higher: Hudson County Clerk Junior Maldonado received 28,600 votes in Jersey City, while Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo collected 21,599 votes in Newark.
Twelve years ago, in Barack Obama’s midterm when Cory Booker was mayor, Newark residents cast 34,544 votes for major party congressional candidates heading the ballot; this year, that number was 26,150 in 2022 – a 24% decrease.
Going back further: in 1981, when Republican Tom Kean was elected governor by a statewide margin of 1,797 votes against Democrat Jim Florio, Newark produced 54,519 major party votes for governor; last year, in the contest between Democrat Phil Murphy and Republican Jack Ciattarelli, Newark’s major party vote production was 31,960 – a 41% drop. During that same time period, Newark population dropped by 17,699.