Sources: Booker close to sealing deal with Bell for Central Ward run

NEWARK – Many a cupped hand over the phone conversation has gone on in the Central Ward about who Mayor Cory Booker plansto run next year inthat sprawling fifth of the citywhere he once served as councilman.

Today, at a ribbon cutting ceremony in the Central Ward for Steve Adubato's new Robert Treat Academy-Central on William Street, Booker all but affixed his imprimatur to the reelectionofCouncilman Charles Bell.

"The stars have aligned from Charlie Bell all the way to Barack Obama," crooned Booker.

Decked in a gold suit and matching hat, Bell beamed in the front row of a packed auditorium.

"Like Councilman Bell said, 'It'sjust about getting it done,'" Booker added to the issue of education.

After the ceremony, Booker stopped short of a take-that-to-the-bank endorsement but told, "We support Councilman Bell," before diving into an SUV vehicle that would later rendezvous with Gov. Jon Corzine for a door pounding tour in a South Ward senior citizens building.

But sources close to the mayor say it'sa done deal with Bell, which sets up a 2010 showdown between Bell -who last year opposed Bookerand won against overwhelming monetary odds – and the son of Booker's political mentor, Carl Sharif.

"I'm running," Darren Sharif said today – regardless of who Booker backs.

Booker's selection of the veteran Bell a year after Booker allies stood in the streets holding signs reading "Bell equals corruption and waste," signifies the mayor's tough knock acceptance of an older, one-timeMayor Sharpe James ally to fill a seat once held by anext generation Booker backer. Sources: Booker close to sealing deal with Bell for Central Ward run