Labor Ally Ras Baraka Elected Newark Mayor

Alex Wolff

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In the city’s first mayoral election since Cory Booker departed for the United States Senate, Newark, New Jersey voters appointed Ras Baraka—son of the late poet and local activist Amiri Baraka—as Booker’s successor on Tuesday night. Baraka had previously served as a councilman and community activist for New Jersey’s most populous city. With 54 percent of the vote, Baraka’s triumph comes at the expense of Shavar Jeffries and follows weeks of heated mudslinging between the candidates. Jeffries, a fellow Democrat, benefited from a significant financial edge over Baraka, while Baraka garnered support by way of his familiar name and alliance with Newark’s unions. Experts view Baraka’s victory as indication of an electorate in search of new direction and a local leader to show the way. The New York Times reports: While Mr. Booker unquestionably raised the profile of his adopted city, attracting hundreds of millions of dollars, he never could erase lingering suspicions among some of Newark’s power brokers that he was an outsider. “Baraka’s win suggests that the Booker years didn’t vanquish the old guard,” said Andra Gillespie, a professor at Emory University and author of The New Black Politician: Cory Booker, Newark and Post-Racial America. Mayor Baraka now faces the task of lowering Newark’s murder rate (currently higher than at any point in the past 24 years) and unemployment rate (more than double that of the country as a whole), while addressing the city’s $93 million deficit, which has come under threat of state intervention.

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Alex Wolff is a Spring 2014 editorial intern.
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