No clear alternative to incumbent Newark Mayor Ras Baraka has emerged ahead of the May 2022 contest, leaving politics watchers to suspect that Baraka won’t have much of a challenge next year.
Baraka’s vanquished 2018 foe, former Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins (pictured, above), has started to vocalize a little more, but sources say she’s interested in the seat currently occupied by Central Ward Councilwoman Lamonica McIver.
The West Ward will feature a real collision, with several candidates contending for the seat left by disgraced Councilman Joe McCallum, including Baraka’s choice, rapper, community activist and organization leader Dupre “Doitall” Kelly, Chigozie U. Onyema, a Newark-based attorney-activist, and former South Ward Councilman Oscar James II. Lyndon Brown is also running, described as tirelessly dedicated to Newark students and residents, especially the city’s homeless population.
Larry Crump, son of retired At-Large Councilwoman Mildred Crump, who assumed her seat upon his mother’s retirement earlier this year, will not be on the ticket, sources say.
The 2014 mayoral contest between Baraka and Shavar Jeffries (24.3K to 20.5K) remains the recent gold standard for citywide races in Newark.
Four years later, Chaneyfield Jenkins got blown out by Baraka (22K to 6.5K).
Perhaps the most curious mayoral contest in this millennium featured a collision between then-incumbent Mayor Cory Booker and challenger Clifford Minor in 2010. Positioned at the top of a line with some real firebrands, Minor did better than Chaneyfield Jenkins, earning a respectable 13.5K votes to Booker’s 22.7K. But that’s because Baraka was on the ticket in the South Ward and John Sharpe James, son of the former mayor, was running citywide for an at-large seat.
They pushed Minor’s numbers, and Baraka’s victory in the south gave him the come-backing perch he needed to ultimately beat the machine citywide in 2018.
At the time a befuddled human puzzle of lowkey communication, Minor came under fire from his baffled supporters on the campaign trail that year because of his reluctance to directly go after the incumbent. No one could figure out his mild-mannered strategy in politically hard-nosed Newark.
After the election, it came to light that Minor was under federal investigation.
He was charged, found guilty; and sentenced in 2011.
“Former Essex County prosecutor and one-time Newark mayoral candidate Clifford Minor was sentenced today to 24 months in prison — the maximum he faced under a federal plea deal — for his role in a bizarre jailhouse plot to help a convicted felon evade gun charges by eliciting a false confession from someone else.”
It was a bad ending to the political career of Clifford Minor and a cynical choke down for supporters, but one that, in retrospect, explained his timid campaign, which left some allies wondering if he wasn’t intentionally tanking.
Now, in advance of a Newark mayoral election 12 years later, no one appears willing or able to step up in opposition to the popular Baraka, with the cautionary tale of Clifford Minor but an ember in the city’s political rearview mirror.