Booker jumps into Central Ward battle alongside Osborne

NEWARK – The old guard's gauntlet down, Mayor Cory Booker seeks to stem the local lossesof the past few months by making a stand with the campaign of Central Ward Council candidate Eddie Osborne.

Bookeron Monday will officiallyendorse labor leader Osborne for Central Ward Council, according to Newark sources.

One of 13 candidates seeking to replace ousted Councilwoman Dana Rone, Osborne this week said he didn't know if he would receive Booker's backing.

"But I definitely would like to have it," he told

Sources say an 18-dayOsborne/Booker lit-blitz starts in the ward tomorrow, as Booker's soldiers join union workers in an effort topropel Osborne past apparent frontrunner, former Councilman Charles Bell.

Bell has the support of North Ward Democratic leader Steve Adubato, state Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Essex), former council colleagues of Bell's,and Central Ward Democratic Chairman Dwight Brown.

Even though a lot of candidates are contending, Booker's official entry into the race will have the immediateimpact of heighteningasteadily building rivalry between the mayor and the muscle behind Bell.

Booker'sOsborne endorsement comesin the uncomfortable aftermath of lossesthe mayorsufferedin districtleaderfights, including Brown's defeat of BookerlieutenantJermaine Jame;, and Rice chief of staff Rufus Johnson'soutmaneuvering ofthe mayor-backed Terrance Bankstonin the freeholder race.

The news hasn't been all bad for the mayor.

Piled-up local losses occured while anexhilarated Bookerclimbed the heights of Sen. BarackObama's (D-Il.) meteoric rise nationally as Obama's mostanimated new Jersey ally.

Nowthe mayor'sforces hope the dual branding of Obama and Booker on Election Day will catapult Osborne onto the council and demonstrate a perfect blending of national and local strength.

But his local Democratic Party antagonists are determinedto have that morning-after Election Day headline deflate the mayor's spirits by undercutting what they want to be an Obama victory with a big Bell win in Newark.

Such an outcome wouldn't bode well for the mayor in the long lead-up to the 2010 re-election.

Booker jumps into Central Ward battle alongside Osborne