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ATLANTIC CITY – Council President Mildred Crump recalled a kid named Ras Baraka in combat boots
who once showed up at a Newark political event. Crump told him the idea was not to scare people into voting for him. He need to look the part of a respectable leader.
The next time Crump encountered Baraka he was in a suit and tie.
That’s when she realized he was going somewhere.
Newark Mayor Baraka assumed the stage at this historic Democratic State Committee Conference, a weathered veteran of his first real crisis (in a city acclimated to crisis) as mayor – the lead contamination problem – a year removed from the last time he addressed this crowd on the heels of a racist meltdown by the Democratic sheriff of Bergen County.
In his speech this afternoon, impassioned as usual, the mayor immediately acknowledged the water crisi in Newark.
It’s nothing new, he said.
“I read in the Star-Ledger that out communities are more likely to have issues with their water,” he recalled.
He wanted to call the paper of record and remind them that “We are in that category for everything. We
disproportionately represent those women who die on the operating table; those children who don’t make it into the world.”
He lingered on President Donald T. Trump, but said he didn’t want to make the speech about him amid buzz about South Jersey Democrats and assorted establishment players staying away from this conference anchored by Governor Phil Murphy and Democratic State Committee Chairman John Currie.
Baraka decried 63 million Americans who believed they should give Trump their vote in the face of white supremacy, and the 40% New Jersey voters who gave him their vote. It means we’ve come far, the mayor said, but not far enough.
The mayor reserved his ire for those Democrats absent from Atlantic City.
“There should not be a Democrat in the state of New Jersey who is not in this room today,” Baraka yelled.
The crowd went berserk.
“Our party’s agenda is not about the party’s agenda, it’s about the people’s agenda,” he noted. “I’m not here to talk about Donald Trump today. He’s a distraction.”
Against the backdrop of an ongoing fight between Murphy and the statewide political nerve center otherwise known as South Jersey, Baraka said, “We have become very proficient at destroying each other.
“Too much time proselytizing, not enough time organizing,” he added.
He made clear that he wasn’t singling out any one region.
“There ain’t no South Jersey and North Jersey, it’s New Jersey,” he shouted. “Either you’re a Democrat or not a Democrat. I’m not a part of those factions, who are more interested in calling each other names than serving the people of this state.”
The mayor received the first legitimate standing ovation at the close of his speech.
He walked off the stage to thunder.