In his Central Ward Council campaign, presumptive frontrunner Charles Bell does not apologize for taking money from former Mayor Sharpe James, who’s now serving time in a federal prison for fraud.
“He contributed $5,000 to my campaign, and the only thing is I was a little disappointed,” said Bell. “With $1 million left in his campaign account, I think he should have contributed a little more.”
Bell, a political ally of James’ who served on the council during the James era, said he believes the jury dealt the former mayor a bad hand earlier this year when it found James guilty of fraud in his oversight of the South Ward redevelopment program.
“I think he’s a political prisoner,” said Bell, a former School Board member, municipal employees’ labor rep., and member of the Newark Housing Authority.
“This is a man who created 5,000 units of low income housing in Newark,” Bell said of James. “He did more for the City of Newark than anyone, and I am very happy he saw fit to contribute to my campaign.”
Bell said in addition to the $5,000 James contributed, the former councilman chipped in a sizable chunk of his own money.
“I’m running this campaign in part on $11,000 of my retirement money, because I believe in what I’m doing,” said the candidate. “How much did (rival candidate Eddie) Osborne contribute to his campaign? I haven’t seen his financial support but I understand he got his money from people who are coming in to colonialize the City of Newark.”
Before departing for a federal penitentiary to begin serving his 23-month sentence, James told a crowd of well-wishers at a party thrown by former Councilwoman Gayle Cheneyfield Jenkins that he would support Bell’s re-entry onto the political landscape.
North Ward Democratic Leader Steve Adubato said he wasn’t thrilled James is contributing to the candidate he is also backing in the Central Ward Council race.
“But he can do what he likes, and he can support the candidate he wants, it’s a free country,” Adubato said.