Newark Confidential

Council President Quintana with Councilman Crump.

NEWARK – Ras Baraka will crush the opposition tomorrow, everyone knows that – but insiders sweat the ward races and, in Baraka’s camp, fret over the possibility of a 5-4 council in the mayor’s favor going 5-4 in favor of Baraka rival Anibal Ramos.

The hinge of power turns on the West Ward race, where Joe McCallum’s corruption crackup created a vacancy.

Baraka forces want rapper/community activist Dupre “DoItAll” Kelly for the seat, but recognize the neophyte foundations of his candidacy, and are hoping Baraka coat-tails him to safety tomorrow, or at least into a runoff.

Their trouble is Chigozie Onyema, a former ally, discarded from the inner sanctum presumably because they sensed too much political ambition on his part, or talent. Depends on who you talk to; in any case, he’s run a real campaign, strong enough to give him the confidence to declare his expectation tomorrow of a first place West Ward finish. Only the organizational overkill will fire blanket Kelly to a second place finish and the showdown with Onyema, a Newark source unaffiliated with either camp told InsiderNJ.

If Onyema looks like a winner heading into the runoff, and has strong gathering momentum, Baraka will have to do a serious gut-check. Does he really want Onyema going to Ramos to forge a 5-4 Ramos-controlled council? They were friends once, after all; might they re-forge contact in the name of keeping control in the South, Central and West? It’s only speculation, of course, but it could prove critical if Onyema deals an Election Day blow to the Baraka machine, and the mayor finds himself in a more intimate relationship with the prospect of losing citywide power.

The same source predicted runoff elections in the South and in the East. Sources say once he eliminates the other candidates in the race, Recreation Director Pat Council – Baraka’s candidate – will be in a strong position to beat Terrance Bankston. In the East, former cop Mike Silva and former Police Chief Anthony Campos are expected to make the runoff, an outcome that would eliminate Baraka’s play for another council vote in the person of Louie Weber, another ex-cop, who has exceeded expectations but does not have the clout of Silva or Campos. Retiring Councilman Augusto Amador’s ill health proved a negative impact on the campaign of his ally, Silva, but Silva still has the local Democratic Party with him and a strong campaign apparatus. Presumably, he would pick up Ramos’ backing in a runoff election. Or Baraka would keep his hands off Campos if Ramos stays away from Onyema.

While all that’s going on, At-Large Councilman Larry Crump is said to be running a strong campaign – with no opposition – in an attempt to muster the most votes and to himself in a position to conceivably challenge Council President Luis Quintana (pictured, above). His ultimate success would, of course, depend on the ward elections breaking his (and/or Baraka’s) way.

The bottom line is this: while the mayor’s “race” is a bore snore, the dynamics of the ward races could alter the city’s power game – maybe even significantly. It is interesting, at the very least, given Ramos’ strength, to consider the possibility of Onyema on the council as another possible threat to the mayoralty; and to consider the possibility of a Ramos-Onyema alliance, or a split between the two of them to help buoy Baraka. Of course, no one should forget that Baraka – mulling a 2025 guv run – scared away all serious contenders this time.

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