Newark Mayor Ras Baraka craves peace.
But he’s ready for war.
With all sides sharpening as the state heads toward at least a three-way 2017 Democratic Primary for Governor and Essex County stands forth: ground zero for political intrigue as the most Democratic Party-populous county, Baraka wants Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop to be the next governor of New Jersey.
He’s hoping that amid all the hurt feelings of past collisions and meshuggah exorcisms that other powerful Democrats see it his way and won’t insist on coming to political blows over the Democrats’ best choice. But if they do resist, Baraka wants to have as many crossbows and catapults in position to move against Fortress Essex.
“I will do everything to make sure he’s elected governor,” Baraka said of Fulop. “Hopefully we [Essex County Democrats] will be together. In case that doesn’t work out. we will weigh our options.”
Baraka operates under the Jeffersonian principle that democracy requires a dust up every few years to purge itself of the worst impurities. So he’s not living in any kind of dismay over the prospect of a civil war in Essex. But he wouldn’t mind avoiding one, if it means being able to maintain always friendly relations with a diehard ally like state Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-28).
Rice earlier today reminded PolitickerNJ that while he loves Baraka, he detests Fulop, and doubts the Jersey City mayor’s ability to properly represent African-Americans.
“Obviously I don’t agree with that,” the Newark mayor said. “I wouldn’t be with him [Fulop] if that were true, and I’m probably, along with Ron, the most vocal person in the state on African-American issues. I don’t see Fulop on the opposite side of that, quite the contrary. I don’t think that’s real. Of course, Ron has a right to believe what he wants to believe.”
Rice isn’t the only relationship Baraka values.
After a Crazy Horse-Custer mayoral race in 2014, he and the Essex County Executive found a way to become friendly in the name of keeping Newark basically in the good graces of the county and state party establishments.
Whatever happens in 2017, peace or war, it will be a tenuous line to navigate.