At a Kenyatta Stewart fundraiser tonight in Paterson, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka all but explicitly said he’s running for governor after Tuesday’s mayoral election.
He chose his words carefully, but those words turned heads dramatically in the packed room at the Art Factory Studios, amped as Democratic State Party Chairman (and Essex County Democratic Chairman) LeRoy Jones gave his full-throated endorsement of Baraka for a third term as mayor of Newark.
Baraka basked in the chairman’s praise.
He built up those other members of Team Baraka.
“A lot of you are putting a target on my back,” said the mayor, in pursuit of his third term. “I’m not dodging that target. I’m not here to talk about that. [But] if we do that thing, I’m going to come find you. Newark is going to decide where I’m going to go. If there is a fight out there, I’m not afraid.”
A source in the room interpreted “that thing” as governor 2025.
Those in the room included Stewart, Shoshonna Page, T.J. Best, Passaic County Democratic Chairman John Currie, and Jones.
At least seven council candidates sat in the room with Baraka. County stalwart Anibal Ramos of Newark’s North Ward, a key forward county ally of Jones, didn’t make the event. Neither did At-Large Councilman Luis Quintana.
Insiders didn’t think much of the state party chairman withholding his endorsement until tonight.
No one takes Baraka’s cruise control pursuit of a third term too seriously.
But amid inevitable chatter about mangled egos during last year’s sheriff’s contest, Jones hit the event feet first and made clear his positive assessment of Baraka.
While sources describe Tuesday’s citywide mayoral contest as a walk over for the incumbent, Baraka allies continue to quietly wring their hands over the west and east ward battlefronts.
Notwithstanding his Jason Statham action movie presence, East Ward contender Louie Weber gave off a decidedly vulnerable glow at the event. Few think he will make it to a run-off in the East, favoring an Anthony Campos versus Mike Silva faceoff; as insiders prepare for a second runoff in the West, where Baraka pal Dupre “DoItAll” Kelly faces a strong challenge from attorney Chigozie Onyema.
Desperate for competitive dynamics, Essex insiders see the main emergent late storyline as a friendly tug of citywide war between Baraka and Ramos.
If Baraka wins the South as expected, but loses both the East and West, Ramos would have a one vote edge on the city council (5-4) and conceivably look to more forcefully build his own runway to the mayoralty.