Voters in Newark’s East, South and West Wards will go to the polls on Tuesday to settle three runoff elections for city council in seats where incumbents did not seek re-election.
The most closely watched contest is in the East Ward, where two former Newark police officers faceoff for the seat of Augusto Amador, who is retiring after 24 years as a councilman.
In the South Ward, Patrick Council nearly scored a first-round victory with 45.65% of the vote, less than 200 votes off winning the seat without runoff. The influential South Ward Democratic municipal chairman and Baraka running mate now faces Terrance Bankston, who spent seven years as an aide to Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Councilman John Sharpe James is not running again,
The West Ward features a match-up between two young rising stars: Platinum-selling rapper Dupré “DoItAll” Kelly and Chigozie Onyema, an attorney and former assistant commissioner of Community Affairs under Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver. The incumbent, Joseph McCallum is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to taking bribes and kickbacks.
The top vote-getter in the May election doesn’t always win the June runoff. In 1998, 29-year-old Cory Booker forced Newark Central Ward Councilman George Branch into a runoff, but Branch led Booker by 340 votes. In the runoff, Booker won by about ten percentage points.
While there have never been more ways to vote in New Jersey, Newark voters are still not sold on pre-Election Day voting. Newark declined to exercise its option under a relatively new law to use early voting in municipal elections.
But in the May 10 non-partisan municipal election, just 11% of voters turnout out to vote. A little less than 16% of all ballots this spring were cast by mail.
While Baraka was re-elected with a landslide 83% of the vote, more than 90% of Newark’s registered voters didn’t vote for him.
While Assembly Budget Committee Chair Eliana Pintor-Marin (D-Newark) was an early Silva supporter, most of the political establishment is now on board: Baraka; Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark); Councilmen Anibal Ramos, Carlos Gonzalez and Luis Quintana; Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo; Sheriff Armando Fountoura; and Assemblywoman Shanique Speight (D-Newark.
Silva finished 36 votes ahead of Campos in the May 10 election, 1,104 to 1,968 (35.6% to 34.6%). Jonathan Seabra finished third with 478 votes (15.4%), followed by ex-police officer Louis Weber, who was running on a slate with Mayor Ras Baraka before his campaign imploded following allegations of sexual assault. He received 449 votes (14.5%).
In May 2018, Amador finished first in a five-candidate field, outpacing Campos by 269 votes, 43%-35%. Amador then won the June runoff by a mere 83 votes, 1,824 to 1,741 (51%-49%).
As a result of the low turnout in 2018, Amador got another four years on the city council even though 89.1% of the voters in his ward didn’t vote for him.
Kelly finished first in May, leading Onyema by 352 votes, 1,489 to 1,137 (38%-29%). Four other candidates trailed far behind, including former South Ward Councilman Oscar James, who received 519 votes (13%).
This is Kelly’s second bid for public office. He ran for an at-large seat in 2018 but finished 8,452 votes behind Councilman Eddie Osborne.
McCallum was forced into a runoff in 2018 after leading Tomecca Keyes by 111 votes, 31%-28%. He won the June election by 299 votes, 56%-44%.
Council received 1,941 votes (45.7%) in a six-candidate field in May 1,180 votes ahead of Bankston (761) in a 45.7% to 17.9% race. Bankston outpaced Trenton Jones by 82 votes to make it into the runoff.