Councilman Ras Baraka declared victory Tuesday night in the hard-fought mayoral election in Newark, N.J., proclaiming, “Victory is ours!! We are the mayor.”
With 150 of 162 precincts reporting, Baraka captured 54 percent of the vote in the nonpartisan election — the first since ex-Mayor Cory Booker was elected a U.S. senator last year. Shavar Jeffries, a civil rights lawyer and former state official, followed with 46 percent, The Star-Ledger reported.
After a race marked by millions in independent expenditures from interests pushing the agendas of both candidates, turnout was high on an election day that was notably peaceful after weeks of angry street confrontations, mudslinging TV ads and the torching of a campaign bus.
Baraka had the support of the labor-connected New Jersey Working Families organization, which bought ads accusing Jeffries of being a pawn of moneyed outside interests and allies of Gov. Chris Christie, CBS reported. He also benefited from widespread opposition to state-appointed school chief Cami Anderson, a backer of charter schools.
Baraka, a high school principal and son of the last poet-activist Amiri Baraka, will replace acting Mayor Luis Quintana, a city councilman who took over after Booker won a special election last year to fill the seat of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.
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Baraka, the father of three daughters, said the Jeffries campaign had portrayed him as a thug and a gang member after trying to broker a gang truce in 2004, the Star-Ledger noted. “They say I’m a thug, why did they burn my bus?” referring to two Jeffries campaign workers who were charged with setting a fire on Baraka’s campaign bus.
In his victory speech, Baraka paid tribute to his father, who died a few months ago. "I know his spirit is in this room," he said, also thanking his mother, along with supporters, including Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and state Sen. and former governor Richard Codey, as he congratulated Jeffries for a "hard-fought" race.
"When everybody didn’t believe, you believed," he said to the crowd. "Today is the day we say goodbye to the bosses."
An hour later, Jeffries took the stage at the Golden Dome Athletic Center on the Rutgers-Newark campus to concede the election.
"The time is now for us to move forward as one city, to move forward together." he said. "We ran a very spirited campaign."