NEWARK – She bet on Phil Murphy for Governor back when Ras Baraka bet on Steve Fulop, and today Murphy, in a big and effusive way, bet on Baraka, leaving Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins frigidly outside the feverishly hot city hall circus scene that was Baraka’s reelection kickoff.
The event overwhelmed.
Former Governor Dick Codey – an early and avid Baraka backer – couldn’t resist rubbing it in, rising from where he sat at one end of a front row alpha male musical chairs set up that included Murphy, Democratic State Committee Chairman John Currie, East Orange Councilman Ted Green, Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo and Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss.
In a very real sense, Murphy over-killed.
It is rare – funerals and wakes the exception – to get Codey to appear near DiVincenzo.
“She was flattened by the Codey-Baraka-Joe-Leroy alliance,” an Essex source assessed of Chanefield-Jenkins’ now apparently limited opportunity to generate support toward a citywide bid next year.
“Hey, mayor,” said Codey, looking back at Baraka as he gripped the podium, “where were all these people in 2014?”
Codey’s friendly dig went to the fact that the county organization didn’t back Baraka four years ago, as the South Ward son of the late poet Amiri Baraka people-powered his way to victory over an imperial army-sized county effort. This afternoon, Essex County Democratic Chairman Leroy Jones stood behind and above next to the mayor himself amid city allies.
“Where Newark goes, the state goes,” said DiVincenzo, describing his exceptional relationship with the unflappable Baraka.
The mayor had them all nibbling out of the palm of his hand, Murphy among them.
Jones promised not only an endorsement, but door to door duty on behalf of the incumbent mayor.
A potential challenger to the mayor next year, Chaneyfield-Jenkins wasn’t here, but all the other council people were, as a beaming Murphy gave the team his blessing – and approved of the mayor’s go early and big strategy more than ten months ahead of the May 2018 contest.
“I think it’s a great idea to get out there early,” Murphy – himself an early entrant in the 2017 gubernatorial race – opined at the microphone. “It’s a brilliant move.”
“The governor-elect,” DiVincenzo enthused. “He hasn’t been elected yet but he is the governor-elect.”
On a session day in Trenton where lawmakers will consider 120 bills, the VIP section included state Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-28), Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-28), and Assemblywoman Cleo Tucker (D-28).
When he spoke, Baraka asked the crowd of Newarkers for their vote. Many of them four years ago undertook the ceremonial swearing in to office as the mayor-elect’s gesture of empowering all his fellow Brick City residents.
They backed him up again today with a strong show of support.
“I’m humbled by it,” said the mayor. “I don’t take it for granted. We’re united. We believe that in order to get things done we need the county executive. We need the next governor. We need our senators. We need the mayors of surrounding cities, the interfaith alliance. This is not a time for division. We have a president poised to oppose many of the things we intend to do. We don’t have time to be on an island.”
Today at least, or at the hour of the event anyway, Chaneyfield-Jenkins in political terms appeared to be the lone occupant of an island.
And this was big…
Baraka today left the central ward seat unfilled.
Even in the midst of all the hoopla, that decision symbolized an olive branch.
There’s still time, conceivably, for the councilwoman to find her way back to the team.
“Mayor Baraka is a statesman,” a Baraka ally told InsiderNJ.
The other part of it, to Codey’s point, is that Baraka had a much reduced portion of the political establishment in 2014, and ran in defiance of it, in fact, a point maybe not lost on Chaneyfield-Jenkins, if she shirks the olive branch offering and instead pulls the trigger on a mayoral run from the Newark hinterlands.