NEWARK – One of Newark’s more infamous political traditions, known as “midnight mail,” always visibly revives in the weeks before any significant election.
It is apparent that in at least in one instance, the kind of anonymous, unattributed pamphleteering, common to Newarkers during contentious mayoral and council races, has entered the digital age.
An anonymous website that questions the qualifications and ethics of the Central Ward candidate on Newark mayoral candidate Ras Baraka’s slate has appeared, the ward that often has the votes that decide Newark citywide elections.
The website, named “Tell the Truth Gayle”, assails the former city councilwoman on a variety of issues, including questions about a reportedly taxpayer-funded junket made by Chaneyfield Jenkins and her staff to Ghana, as well as her contribution to thousands of dollars spent by City Council members on meals.
One significant allegation made on the website alludes to a 2009 proposal by some members of the City Council to award Jericho Group, a company created by Chaneyfield Jenkins after she was voted out of office in 2006, a $350,000 contract to provide the council with expert advice on the city’s development deals. The council ultimately did not approve the proposed contract.
Chaneyfield Jenkins, who served as councilwoman-at-large from 1995 to 2006, is attempting a political comeback as part of Baraka’s slate. An ally of former Newark Mayor Sharpe James, she was defeated as part of the rise to power of former Newark mayor and now U.S. Senator Cory Booker, who swept into office with his entire nine-person slate in 2006.
Chaneyfield Jenkins is facing off against incumbent Darrin Sharif, who is running as an independent, in the May 13 municipal election. She will also contend with Bishop Andre Speight, the Central Ward Democratic chairman, who is on the slate of mayoral candidate and former state Assistant Attorney General Shavar Jeffries. Other independent candidates, such as Miguel Arce, who is attempting to become the first Latino Central Ward councilman, are also in play.
The Chaneyfield Jenkins council campaign issued a written statement in response to the accusations made on the anonymous website.
“Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins is a proven leader with a track record of results for the citizens of Newark. At this time she is focused on her campaign. While Gayle is out listening to the needs of Central Ward residents, brainstorming on how to deliver much-needed resources to the ward, it is clear her opponents are more focused on her,” the statement said. “Gayle has run a clean smear-free campaign this far and will continue to do so over the next 12 days.”