Baraka Stirs Crowd with Appeal to ‘Cunningham Legacy’

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka continued his statewide “Unite NJ Leaders” listening tour this weekend in neighboring Hudson County, where Democratic Party members are mulling over a possible succession plan in the event that state Senator Sandra Cunningham (D-31) does not return to the state senate.

Baraka’s Hudson event spilled into a gala event in honor of state Senator Ronald L. Rice when Baraka took the stage.

“When we talk about the Cunningham legacy, we have to be serious about what the Cunningham legacy means,” Baraka told a crowd that rose to its feet.

“We have to find every way to support her even when she’s not there,” the mayor added. “We have to take care of our elderly the way other people’s community takes care of their elderly. If we don’t do that, we don’t deserve to be in the position we have.”

Without actually saying it, Baraka signaled his willingness to get involved in Hudson against the backdrop of his feel-out toward a 2025 gubernatorial bid and a clash of heads with Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, who also appears poised to run statewide.

In LD-31, there is increasing speculation that veteran incumbent state Senator Cunningham will not pursue reelection. Sources say John Minella, aide to Jersey City Mayor Fulop and a non-African American, would likely fill the vacancy, with Commissioner Bill O’Dea – also not African American, like Cunningham, slated as a longer term replacement.

Part of Baraka’s tour – now he’s been to Mercer, Camden and Hudson, with other counties on the horizon – includes his willingness to buck the party line amid increasing scrutiny of his chances in a statewide Democratic Primary and his probability of running an upstart candidacy in defiance of the county party organizations.

“If I run, I am going to run to win,” Baraka told InsiderNJ at the Ronald Rice gala.

As for what he head in Hudson when he engaged community members there, he said, “I encountered there what I encounter everywhere, which is people looking to have a seat at the table.”

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