Essex Freeholder Johnson Expected not to Run for Reelection

Veteran Essex County Freeholder Rufus Johnson of Newark (above left) is expected to not pursue reelection in 2020, a source told InsiderNJ.

A close ally of state Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-28), Johnson claimed his Essex freeholder seat in 2008 after the retirement of Johnny Jones left a vacancy. Then-Newark Mayor Cory Booker wanted to long time South Ward ally Terrance Bankston to fill the seat, but the party selected Johnson – then chief of staff to Sen. Ronald Rice – the man Booker defeated for mayor in 2006.

His support for Ras Baraka for mayor in 2014 put the presidency of the freeholder board out of reach. The county went instead with future Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake (D-34) of East Orange, a close ally of Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman LeRoy Jones.

A graduate of the Newark public schools, a baseball and basketball star, co-founder and coach of both the Newark Optimist Club Little League and Newark Pop Warner Football League, coach of the Our Lady of Good Counsel High School Basketball Team, and long-serving trusted Rice aide (for 38 years) going back to the when the senator was a councilman, Johnson currently serves as an Aide to Newark Councilman Joe McCallum. On the Essex Freeholder Board, Johnson has served on the health committee, the committee to investigate the ECUA chair, land use, economic development and recreation oversight, among others.

A vital public figure who goes out of his way to be welcoming to people, who built a solid relationship with fellow athlete Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo despite Rice’s collisions with the county, Johnson made headlines in 2013 when he was carjacked at gunpoint. From

“A second-term freeholder, Johnson was in his Mercedes Benz when he was carjacked around 6 p.m. near the 100 block of Montrose Street, Chief of Detectives Anthony Ambrose said.” The Essex freeholder was not injured. It was not the first time he was in danger that year. Shortly before the carjacking, Johnson was in a restaurant at the time of a shooting that left a young man dead.


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