The Money and Color of Politics

Leading up to 2006, Cory Booker broke the bank by raising an unprecedented $6.6 million dollars for a Newark mayoral election. His $6.6 million dollars went a long way: on payroll were glossy public relation firms, credentialed pollsters, mathematicians, political consultants and the list went on. All in, Booker won that election handedly. 

For the 2014 mayoral election, however, how much will money and race play a role? Perhaps a great deal and with over a year to go there is considerable time to fundraise and build alliances. Although, there are other key variables, including race, education, political and community support. 

Let’s look at the prospective mayoral candidates.

To date, North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos has raised $275,000, former US Attorney General prosecutor Shavar Jefferies $196,000, and South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka reported $4,000.

The raw dollars obviously show Ramos and Jeffries commanding an enormous lead over Baraka.

But money alone won’t decide the outcome.

In 2011, New Jersey Labor Market Views reported Newark’s Hispanic population had ballooned to 93,746. Cited as the largest Hispanic population in NJ, accounting for 34% of the city’s population. The Hispanic population is set to equal or surpass 56% of the Black population in the next 15 years (approx).

This bodes well for Ramos, a favorite in the Hispanic community, who has traditionally had the support of North Ward power broker Steve Adubato and County Executive Joe DiVIncenzo, but perhaps that does not total enough to win the seat.

Ramos will need substantial support from the African-American community. That might be tricky given the recent Shanique Speight drama. During a pre-Thanksgiving 2012 meeting, Ramos in his show of support for Booker and his allies, led three Hispanic council members in nominating former School Board member Speight to fill U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, Jr.’s (D-10) vacated city council seat. That Machiavellian type move gave caused a near riot by the mostly African-American audience. A judge later overturned the decision.

Jeffries’ climb to leadership may be a bit tougher, as he is lesser known than Ramos. But with considerable money raised, it is possible that Jeffries could utilize a generous portion of his bankroll to become better known via glossy pamphlets and nitchy commercials.

Yet he will still need to tussle with Baraka over the black vote, especially in the South Ward, Jeffries’ residence and Baraka’s stronghold.

Jeffries may also have to contend with another issue: his strong stance on and support of charter schools and vouchers.

Jeffries is known to be an avid supporter of charter schools and parental choice-contrary to the beliefs of community activist and public school purist. 

Ras Baraka in comparison is in a deficit of about $200,700K:Ramos and $192,00: Jefferies, must first climb the fundraising hill, at least to compete with his rivals.

However, Baraka may have significant community support, particularly in the South Ward.

He is a staunch advocate of public schools, leading Central High School in significant academic gains. Yet that support nor his views on race may lend themselves to votability in North, East and parts of the Central ward. All of which are needed to win the lead seat at City Hall.

There are certain assureds among these contestants. All must raise money, significant, contender-type money; all must have exceptional political advisors, have the ability and willingness to embrace Newark’s entire demographic and a significant GOTV team.

But right now, no single candidate has a clear shot at the head seat.