Bashed on the street early for not projecting the energy to match and mete out the kind of verbal punishment opponents say Mayor Cory Booker deserves,retired municipal Judge Clifford Minor said that's not his style, and though he knows also he won't have the money to keep up with Booker next year, he intends to win his long-shot challenge.
In his particular low-key, grassroots way.
"No, I'm not fired up like Sharpe James, but I don'tthink you need to runheated campaigns in order to win, and I don't believe you have to run a negative campaign," Minor told PolitickerNJ.com. "My strength is going to come from grassroots support, andthere's recent evidence of that kind of support offsetting the money advantage.Gov-elect Chris Christie was absolutely well under the numbers of Governor Corzine in terms of money. Look at Mayor (Mike) Bloomberg, who had a much closer race than he anticipated, while significantly outspending the challenger.
"I'm grasroots, I'm not afraid of the community," added Minor, a former police officer and prosecutor."I don't need 15 cops to walk with me on the streets. I'll be knocking on doors and walking.That's worth more than the $8 million that he (Booker) has."
Minor admits the incumbent may be a good politician, but seriously questions the younger man's ability to manage the sprawling power center of Newark. Although this is his first political campaign,he says he personally effectively administered Newark Municipal Court. It wasn't paying for itself, and when he left, he left it solvent, he says.
"It's hard to tell how he's managing the city," Minor said of Booker. "The mayor is a manager of an operation. He has that responsibility, butyou never see him at the helm delegating."
A resident of the North Ward, Minor has already aligned himself with the South Ward council candidacy of former Councilman Ras Baraka, son of poet/activist Amiri Baraka and principal of Central High School.
He also anticipates talks with East Ward council candidate Peter Pantoliano, a businessman, who formally launched his challenge of Councilman Augusto Amador last week, apparently as a solo act.
Bucking forapolitical embrace by the mayor, Pantoliano distributed palm cards bearing his own name alongside Booker's, but thelatter has committed to running again with Amador, a situation that may propel Pantoliano by necessity into the Minor camp.
That may be fine with Minor, depending the results of their face-to-face talks.
"Mr. Pantoliano is very active in the east ward community and I would be interested in discussing with him a possible alliance," said the mayoral candidate. "Certainly we would be open to his assistance."
To a question about whether he might clash stylistically on the campaign trail with the brasher Baraka, Minor said there's no way.
"Idon't think we're opposites at all," he said. "At the end of the day, we are the same. He has his message andI think it's effective. he's been successful. I just in his school yesterday. Ileft there after 5 p.m. and there were students doing various things, active, and behaving very well."
A vocal propoent – as Booker has been – or charter schools and vouchers, Christie on the gubernatorial circuit more than once bad mouthed Central High as a model of public school failure, considering senior test scores.
"Central High School is not the only Newark school that has problems," said Minor. "If he (Christie) believes charter schools and vouchers are the answer, then I don't think the problems of urban schools will ever get resolved.I don't know that vouchers help the mass. What's most effective for the mass of people you are governing? That's public school education.Vouchers and charters cover only a small portion. What happens to those students that don't have that benefit?"
Minor'sjunior high school teacher was Donald Payne,now U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (D-Newark), whose support he hopes to landnext year for his showdown with Booker.
That might be a tough endorsement for the elder Payne, whose son, Councilman Donald Payne, Jr., is running on the Booker Team.
Butif Minor couldcoax the congressman to his corner, it wouldn't be the first time a member of the older political generation broke ranks with blood ina war against Booker.
State Sen. Ronald L. Rice (D-Newark), whose son, Councilman Ronald C. Rice (D-Newark) is a Booker Team member, supports Minor over his old foe Booker.
"Senator Rice and I have been friends for more than 30 years," said Minor. "I don't seek his support so much as see this astwo friends coming together on a project.
"It's still early for the congressman to make any decision, butI am seeking his support," Minor added.
The candidate is also alert to the possibility that former Mayor Sharpe James may return totown early next year after serving a federal prison stint on corruption charges dropped by then Christie's U.S. Attorney's Office.
"Mr. James is someoneI have known half of my adult life," said Minor."We are friends. Whatever he decides to do is solely up to him. Knowing him, he might lend himself to thecampaign but Ihave not talked to him about this."
Regardless of who's with him finally and despite his reluctance at this stage to talk about money, Minorremains quietlyconfident.
"I've livedhere all my life," he said."A lot of my friends are still here and walk up and down the street – friendsI went to high school with, justfolks.I enjoy being here in town. Newark. Idon't know what that romance is about -but it's there."