Poll results from Tuesday’s elections show Team Baraka slate bullies into most council seats, but unsuccessful in elections sweep.
Elections show Newark’s Mayor Ras J. Baraka maintains his position in beating challenger Sheila Montague. From 160 out of 168 districts reporting at press time, Mr. Baraka earned 13,093 or 82.78% of votes, while Ms. Montague received 2,723 or 17.22%. Ms. Montague being on the ballot was no small feat. She told Ark Republic that she “was reportedly getting so many [signatures to get on the ballot] rejected, it required me to repeatedly keep going back out into the community. ”
While Baraka’s win provided a wide distance from Montague, it also revealed an abysmal voter turnout. The New Jersey Division of elections reported 164,578 voters registered in November 2021, making only 7.96% of Newark’s voters casting ballots for the “Believe in Newark” leader. The low voter representations, even in heavily Democratic districts, magnifies a concern for Democrats in future elections throughout the U.S. in upcoming June and November voting days.
Three wards will most likely have runoff elections in June. For certain, the Latino-heavy East Ward will see two cops duke it out. After all 23 districts tallied their votes, Michael J. Silva (1,039 or 35.94%) and Anthony Campos (989 or 34.21%) will face another election in runoffs. The East Ward, home to the famous Ironbound neighborhood, deals with severe environmental waste issues and growing safety concerns. Silva left Newark Police Department as a detective, while Campos served as Newark police chief under Mr. Baraka.
On the other hand, the Baraka-backed Louis Weber (410 or 14.18%) ended in last place. One more candidate, Jonathan Seabra (453 or 15.67%), a repeat-campaigner who is connected to local grocery chain, Seabra Markets, bested Weber too. Weber’s loss indicates that the East Ward is largely absent from the Baraka influence.
West Ward’s contentious battle will continue. In total, 3,518 voters cast ballots for this race. Out of the 35 of 37 reporting districts, Dupre L. Kelly, who captured (1,333 or 37.89%) of the votes, now faces Chigozie U. Onyema (1,049 or 29.82%) in runoff elections. Kelly, who is a hip-hop artist, has worked in various non-profit campaigns and educational initiatives throughout the city. He is backed by Mr. Baraka in the Team Baraka political slate. Onyema, an activist-attorney with a record of running underdog campaigns, has been doggedly working to disrupt the Baraka hegemone.
The West Ward was recently named in a study by Rutgers Law School Center for Law, Inequality and Metropolitan Equity (CLiME), to be one of the districts targeted for corporate purchases of single-family real estate. “Several completely anonymous investors are buying up significant real estate in Newark, especially larger multi-family and apartment buildings,” detailed the research.
From 2017 to 2021, during Mr. Baraka’s tenure as mayor, the CLiME study said 47 percent of all property was bought by three landlords and one incognito private investor. The neighborhoods in Newark that have been the aim of corporate entities are predominantly-Black with a high, low-income population. CLiME surmises that the intentional business practices, though very legal, demonstrates “racial exclusion to predatory lending . . . foreclosure to the extraction of rents,” and an example of what happens “when local economies ignore equity.”
The damning report counters Mr. Baraka’s multiple housing initiatives throughout the years to provide affordable housing and housing to the growing displaced population. Last week, the mayor held a meeting to offer a plan to respond to CLiME’s report. The mayor’s office did not respond to Ark Republic’s request for a copy of the plan, an oft-practice of the communications department.
Another ward mentioned in the CLiME study is the South Ward. “Rental affordability is a particularly acute problem in the West and South Wards,” the study concluded.
A division of the city that Mr. Baraka has cultivated much of his political backing over the years; the South Ward also had the highest voter turnout with 3,593 ballots entered. Throughout his electoral political career, Mr. Baraka has relied on his supporter base there. However, his endorsee, Patrick O. Council may very well likely have to face another round of elections in a runoff with Terrance L. Bankston, a community-leader and education advocate.
The most representation of candidates in a ward—six of them on ballot—out of the 42 districts, 38 have submitted their final results showing Council (1,636 or 45.53%) carrying a noticeable lead over Bankston (638 or 17.76%), but not enough to secure a win at press time.
Bankston, who has been very active in voicing concerns for environmental, sanitation and safety issues in South Ward, told Ark Republic that he hopes to interrupt the longtime political families that rule the city. If Council fails to earn 51 percent of the vote, his votability and Baraka’s South Ward might, will be tested in June.
For the Council-at-Large seats, the incumbents Luis A. Quintana (11,653 or 27.75%) and Carlos M. Gonzalez (9,787 or 23.30%) kept their positions. C. Lawrence Crump (10,632 or 25.31%), who was appointed to his mother’s seat in August 2021, stays as well. The newcomer to the Council-at-Large is Louise Scott-Rountree (9,927 or 23.64%). All four council members were part of Team Baraka, a slate of candidates endorsed by the current mayor.
The one of two female council member, LaMonica R. McIver, the current council member over the Central Ward, secures her seat again (1,993 or 64.50%) over Shawn X. McCray (1,097 or 35.50%).
Running unopposed was North Ward councilman, Anibal Ramos Jr. who garnered 2,537 votes. A neighborhood in the division was also cited in the CLiME study for its high-rate of corporate real estate buyers.
This story is part of Ark Republic’s “Back to the Bricks” ongoing series reporting hyperlocal politics.
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