The news about Ras Baraka and Steven Fulop preparing to run lines against the Essex County Democratic Organization came down like hard buckets of golf balls on the sedate crowd of pols at the Maplewood Country Club Monday afternoon.
Newark Mayor Baraka was there enjoying himself with powerful Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo and DiVincenzo’s entourage, which included state Senator M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29) and North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos.
Here was Baraka planning a civil war back at Tops Diner, and then participating in a classic DiVincenzo relationship-building exercise on the golf course.
It was awkward, to say the least, as news of the PolitickerNJ dispatch began circulating.
DiVincenzo and his chief of staff, Phil Alagia, had long made the case in backrooms that Baraka wouldn’t back Fulop, and certainly not early, owing to Newark’s dependence on county and state connective financial tissue. They also believed Baraka’s May nonpartisan run of wins, going back to his 2010 South Ward council victory and culminating with his 2014 mayoral triumph, would prove ineffectual in a June Democratic Primary, where the organization has an imperial record of domination.
Baraka told PolitickerNJ yesterday that he continues to nurse hope that he can get more Essex leaders to see the wisdom of backing Fulop over the other options.