Former Newark Mayor Sharpe James is probably headed to court after the city clerk refused to accept his petitions to seek an at-large Newark City Council seat.
City Clerk Kenneth Louis cited a 2008 court order that permanently barred James from holding public office following a criminal conviction that led to the former mayor serving 18 months in a federal prison, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
But James believes that the order was invalidated by a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned the corruption conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.
At his sentencing, U.S. District Court Judge William Martini noted that Newark didn’t lose any money as a result of James pulling strings to help a woman, Tamika Riley, but unkempt and empty properties from the city and then resell them a profit. Martini, in a stiff rebuke to then-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, said that James didn’t personally profit by the deal. His crime, Martini said, was not disclosing his relationship with Riley.
James will need to ask a judge to throw out the 2008 order and instead allow James to run.
The 85-year-old James is mounting a comeback bid sixteen years after ending his 20th year as mayor of Newark’s largest city.
James, who first won a city council seat in 1970 on a slate with the city’s first Black mayor, Kenneth Gibson, remains hugely popular in Newark. Many political observers think he would win one of the four council seats.
In January, 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. The circumstances of Torres’ case are different from James.Sharpe James Forfeiture Order Feinberg