Home>Campaigns>Sharpe James mulls run for Newark City Council

Former Newark Mayor Sharpe James, right, with U.S. Senator Cory Booker. (Photo: Cory Booker/Twitter).

Sharpe James mulls run for Newark City Council

Ex-mayor who went to prison on fraud charges might seek political comeback

By David Wildstein, February 02 2022 10:32 am

Former Newark Mayor Sharpe James, who served 18 months in federal prison after his conviction on criminal charges, has taken out nominating petitions to run for an at-large city council seat in the May non-partisan elections, the New Jersey Globe has learned.

James, 85, served as mayor of Newark from 1986 to 2006.  Despite his criminal conviction and the 20 years that have passed since he last ran for office, James has remained popular among some groups of Newark voters.

It’s still not immediately clear whether James, a convicted felon, is eligible to run for council.

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In 2008, Superior Court Judge Linda R. Feinberg said that James could never again public office.

“Sharpe James is forever disqualified from holding any office or position of honor, trust or profit,” Feinberg wrote in her order.

Last month, former Paterson Mayor Joey Torres, who was convicted in 2017 for using city employees to do renovations at his home, was told by the municipal clerk that he is ineligible to run for office again.

James may seek to challenge a bid to keep him out of office, and could ask Gov. Phil Murphy to commute his sentence.

His son, John Sharpe James, is expected to announce that he will not seek re-election to his South Ward seat on the Newark City Council.

The road for a James comeback is helped by the absence of popular city councilwoman Mildred Crump from the ticket.  She resigned for health reasons last year and was replaced by her son, Larry.

James won his last election in 2002, when he narrowly defeated Cory Booker, then a young, first-term Central Ward councilman.   His decision to forgo a 2006 re-election bid opened the door to Booker winning that year.

The contest between James and Booker was so bitter that it became the subject of a documentary, Street Fight.  But James wound up endorsing Booker when he sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

He had served on the city council for sixteen years, first representing the South Ward and then running at-large.  He ousted four-term incumbent, Kenneth Gibson, in the 1986 mayoral race.

Following the death of State Sen. Wynona Lipman (D-Newark) in 1999 — that was before the state banned dual officeholding – James was elected to the State Senate.   He won three elections before retiring in 2007.

Then-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie alleged that James had offered his alleged mistress that chance to buy valuable city properties and accused him of lavish spending using credit cards issued by the city.  He was convicted after six-day trial.

Sharpe James Forfeiture Order Feinberg

This story was updated at 1:06 PM.

 

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