Onyema Ready for an Old West Showdown with Kelly

Chigozie Onyema

On June 14th, Newark West Ward voters will size up the two candidates who made the runoff: Dupre “DoItAll” Kelly and Chigozie Onyema.

A rap artist and community activist, Kelly has the backing of Mayor Ras Baraka.

In a crowded field, attorney Onyema came in second (1,403 to 1,082) and now seeks the votes to surpass his rival in a head-to-head matchup.

“We’re encouraged,” the candidate told InsiderNJ. “Sixty-two percent said no to the machine. We have an opportunity on June 14th to bring those folks out.

“his is the machine that backed Joe McCallum,” Onyema added, referring to Team Baraka’s endorsement of the former councilman, jammed up on corruption charges and bounced out of his council seat.

On the eve of the May 10th election, McCallum endorsed Kelly.

“I think that endorsement speaks for itself, and further cements our different direction,” he said. “We’ll get back outside and on the doors with the same message. We will offer our reinforcement of that message that the choice is clear.”

An abysmal 12 percent (28,487 of a possible 237,335) of the eligible Essex County electorate cast votes in Tuesday’s election. Not even 3,700 people voted in the West Ward.

“It’s hard to say what it means,” said Onyema, who ran a people power campaign. “One theory is that there was not a competitive mayor’s race and that depressed turnout. Also, redistricting played a role, perhaps, as folks got turned away from their traditional polling places. I know a couple of examples of where that took place. I think it’s hard to say.”

The crosscurrents of COVID fatigue and cynicism about politics may have played a role, too, of course, others muttered in the aftermath.

But Onyema said he intends to maintain his core campaign message.

“Our message is deepening democracy, which begins with the electoral process, and continues by engaging citizens in every decision we make, whether it’s public safety dollars or infrastructure. But it begins electorally, and yes, in these times, it is an exciting challenge.”

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