NEWARK – Spackled over with “Fight the Power” signs, the sedan cruises up 14th Avenue, and Georgia Maye Ransome’s voice sounds on the intercom, urging residents to get out there for the Rone ticket on Election Day.
At the wheel of the car sits candidate Mary Rone, longtime community activist and mother of former Councilwoman Dana Rone, whom an assignment judge stripped of her Central Ward Council seat in August after concluding that Rone used her office to try to obstruct justice in a Dec. 2006 traffic incident.
Fifteen people, including her mother, vie to replace Dana Rone in a special election come Tuesday. There were originally 16 candidates but city job counselor Marcell Robinson dropped out of the race and now backs Rone.
The endorsement doesn’t mean much, given the political terrain.
At the corner of 14th Avenue and 7th Street, the younger Rone meets her mother and other backers of Mary Rone’s campaign, including Robinson and George Tillman, son of the late community organizer Saidi Nguvu.
They’re guerilla fighters hoping to trip up two large-scale political armies bearing down on each other at high speed in the form of retired Councilman Charles Bell’s forces on the one side and labor leader Eddie Osborne’s on the other.
Osborne has the support of Mayor Cory Booker, while Bell’s backed by nearly every other older political force in the city. Rone insists her mother by contrast would be an independent voice, as she herself strove to be during her two years on the council.
Rone won office as a slate mate of the Booker Team, but says she soon struck off on her own.
“I was upset over the massive layoffs of city workers, while at the same time we were being asked to give a bonus to a new executive of the housing authority who was making $250,000,” says Rone, who also wanted the Booker administration to make more of a good faith effort at building low income affordable housing.
“It began to be conflicting,” she says, “and I’m not good at pretending.”
“Just like my mother,” Rone adds. “We said from the beginning on the council that we were there to check the mayor. I’m sure he can be salvaged. I wish him nothing but well. This administration has made progress, but the council cannot just be cheerleaders for the mayor.”
In this big ward rife with vacant land, Rone believes Osborne would be a rubber stamp for the mayor and Bell would be an obstinate “no” vote.
“My mother starts with who’s with the community, and then she’ll stand with who’s for the community,” says the former councilwoman. “My mother’s candidacy is about the people.”
Their failure to stem the stampede of other candidates into one alliance of grassroots partners behind a single, solid alternative to Bell or Osborne makes it unlikely the Rones – or anyone else save Osborne or Bell – can win. Lack of dollars makes it tough to keep up. This morning, Booker allies dispatched 1,500 Thanksgiving turkeys to seniors, many of them in the Central Ward.
Still hopeful of her appeals process in her obstruction of justice case, Rone says she’s excited about the presidential candidacy of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Il.). A piece of campaign literature the Rones say they paid for with small dollar donations shows Obama and his daughter on one side and Mary and Dana Rone on the other.
“Their story is our story,” reads the caption.
“I’m hoping Obama deals with the needs of urban communities,” says the former councilwoman, moments before heading back on the road to help campaign for her mother in the waning daylight.