NEWARK – It’s late afternoon in the Ironbound on Election Day. As another minivan passes with a woman hanging out of the passenger-side window on a megaphone telling people to vote for lines E-8 and E-9, the mood inside East Ward Democratic Party headquarters turns even more sour.
Sitting at a table with his Ironbound allies, including East Wardparty leader Joseph Parlavecchio and Assemblyman Albert Coutinho, East Ward Councilman Augusto Amador feels slightly unceremoniously stomped on right now.
The allies of Mayor Cory Booker are cruising aggressively throughout the East Ward and trying to roust support for Booker’s line "E" county committee members.
"The mayor told me he wouldn’t run against me, and here we wake up today and these knuckleheads are running around promoting the mayor’s candidates," saysAmador, aveteran councilman, who was an ally of Mayor Sharpe James before making the transition to the new Booker era.
"What it tells me is they’re trying to build county committee support here to get me off the ticket in 2010," Amador says.
Going into Election Day, Booker said he would fight for more control at the county level – and he promised to go especially hard in the Central and South wards – but he never took anything off the table.
His objective? Build an organization that gets him out of the political stranglehold that North Ward power broker Steve Adubato exerts citywide.
The mayor couldn’t go after Adubato this time. The boss is too tough in the North Ward.
"We have no challengers to our line 'B' county committee members," Adubato says, as he focuses his attention in this election on the U.S. Senate candidacy of U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews (D-1).
But Booker wants to chisel out as big a base as he can elsewhere, and that includes the East. The trouble is the action may permanently alienate the East Ward power brokers who backed him in 2006.
Onetime Booker supporter Parlavecchio says the mayor’s maneuvers in the East are a sign of disrespect, and says if anything, the mayor is only weakening his own base.
"These guys around him are telling him he can build an organization within an organization," says Parlavecchio, who believes Booker takes the East Ward – the smallest of Newark’s five wards – for granted.
Booker is essentially, in his view, trying to test his power against Amador and Parlavecchio as a warmup act for some future war with Adubato.
Pablo Fonseca, chief of staff for Booker, denies that the mayor wants to remove Amador from their ticket, but he does have a problem with Parlavecchio, who, in Fonseca’s words,undercut the mayor when he refused to keep Booker’s candidates for county committee.
"We’re not running against Augie Amador, and we’re not running district leaders in the entire ward," says Fonseca. "We are running against Joe Parlavecchio and the East Ward Democratic Party, we’re running a couple of people who Parlavecchio threw off the line."
But Amador refuses to accept that he’s not walking around the East Ward as a political target.
"What if because of what he did, I stopped giving him my support on the City Council right now?" says Amador. "Isn’t my support on the council more important than the shenanigans going on out there?"