With Cory Booker on the cusp of becoming New Jersey’s first African-American elected to the U.S. Senate, the Democratic Party is a step closer to reclaiming a crucial vote in Congress.
On Tuesday, New Jersey voters overwhelmingly chose the Newark mayor as their Democratic standard bearer in what was anticipated to be a low-turnout primary. National attention has been fixed on the special election to fill the vacant seat caused by the death of long-time Sen. Frank Lautenberg, but little on Newark where would-be candidates are lining up to take the Brick City’s helm.
Despite being ravaged by poverty, with the U.S. Census Bureau revealing that over a quarter of Newark’s population lives below the poverty line, the city has been rebranded by Booker’s political stardom as a city on the verge of transformation. Hotels, supermarkets, a booming downtown and hundreds of millions of dollars have kindled the city’s rebirth.
Newark residents are now tasked with electing a new leader that can continue the city’s revitalization while tackling its systemic problems.
Several officials in the Ironbound neighborhood of Newark have already offered themselves as logical successors to Booker. Three mayoral candidates have emerged from the area, including South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka, former Deputy State Attorney General Shavar Jeffries and North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos.
A Politicker NJ poll taken in July hinted at a possible fourth candidate: Rep. Donald Payne Jr., a former Newark Councilman and son of the late Congressman Donald Payne.
The poll gave Payne, Jr. 57% in a mayoral election, but the congressman has yet to throw his hat in the race.
“There is still much work to be done,” Payne, Jr. said in a statement to MSNBC. “The future of Newark will be a bright one, but the city needs a mayor who is committed to….fighting to overcome the difficult challenges that still exist.”
Councilman Ron Rice recently endorsed Barka, a former school board president, believing he would “reengage a disenfranchised electorate and marry old school Newark with a progressive ideology.”
Rice has been vocal about the difficulties plaguing the city said “the institutional problems of transforming the boom into jobs and business opportunities for residents of the city and confronting systemic poverty.”
Of all the candidates, Politifax NJ publisher Nick Acocella, told MSNBC that Ramos has the greatest chance of winning.
“The fact is, Anibal Ramos has the most money and the most organizational support -- from County Executive Joe DiVincenzo to the North Ward Center,” Acocella said. “That's a very compelling combination.”
Ramos would be Newark’s first Hispanic mayor.