Newark Mayor Ras Baraka decided not to publicly endorse insurgent mayoral candidate Elton Custis in Camden’s June Primary. But he gave $10,400 to Custis in the closing days of the primary, according to the state Election Law Enforcement Commission.
While Custis came up short in his bid to wrest Camden control from the county party machine, he emphasized issues close to the Newark mayor, including core human basics like – wait for it – basic human food access.
Even if Baraka didn’t dive in head first – there were likely entreaties from the U.S. Senator’s and Governor’s offices for him to stay out of making this an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ in a delicate political situation with Phil Murphy on the ballot and aligned with the Camden Democratic Committee – his willingness to play against the establishment in Camden is not without significance.
Remember, the allies of the Camden Democratic machine tried to prevent Baraka from becoming mayor
of Newark in the first place in a highly competitive 2014 mayoral contest. The South played for keeps in Newark, and if Baraka didn’t actually show up on the streets of Camden to be caught publicly on camera, he made no mistake about his political affiliation within the highly transactional New Jersey Democratic Party.
His play in Camden, undertaken against a regional organization that went to war against him in his own backyard, suggests a coming 2025 statewide collision the state deserves.
It won’t get it, of course, because the establishment will short circuit it before it happens in the name of “peace.”
But if 2021 presented a bore snore election cycle, with Murphy affixing himself to the party organizations and their ilk, even going so far as to back Camden County Democratic Committee candidate for mayor Victor Carstarphen, Baraka quietly playing in Camden teases the prospect of a coming showdown with Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3).
Upper house backer of the Economic Development Act that awarded tax incentives to corporate pals of George Norcross III while the City of Camden shuttered supermarkets, Sweeney’s still driving relentlessly around the north country in a bid to sew up political support. If Baraka is in Camden, one can only hope their paths cross out there in the swamps and scrub pine scraggle-scape of NJ – and not in a good way.