Newark voters will go to the polls on May 8 to decide if they want to give Mayor Ras Baraka a second term. He faces Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Cheneyfield Jenkins.
Baraka was elected in 2014 by a 54%-46% margin against former deputy state Attorney General Shavar Jeffries. Baraka won 71% of the vote in the South Ward, his political base, while carrying the winning 59% in the Central and 62% in the Ward West. That offset Jeffries’ 71% in the North Ward and 69% in the East Ward.
This time, Baraka now has the backing of the same North and East Ward leaders that supported Jeffries and has the endorsement of U.S. Senator Booker, his sparring partner when Booker was mayor and Baraka served as a city councilman. The conventional wisdom is that Baraka will win by a wide margin; the real drama of the evening will be how the mayor does against Cheneyfield Jenkins in her Central Ward base.
The race to watch in Newark is the one for East Ward City Councilman, where incumbent Augusto Amador faces a challenge from former school board member Crystal Fonseca, the daughter of ex-Booker chief of staff Pablo Fonseca, and former Newark Police Director Anthony Campos. Amador is running on Baraka’s ticket, but Campos is also backing the incumbent mayor and has received support from some Baraka backers who don’t like Amador. Fonseca is on Cheneyfield Jenkins’ ticket. This race could head to a runoff.
Booker lost his first race for mayor in 2002 when Sharpe James beat him 53%-47%. He won in 2006 with 76% against State Sen. Ronald Rice, and was re-elected with 62% against former Essex County Prosecutor Clifford Minor in 2010. James’ son, John Sharpe James, is now running for re-election to his South Ward city council seat on Baraka’s ticket.