NEWARK – Bolstered by Booker badmouthing, charges of a glam-fixated MIA mayor and chants of “Clean Sweep! Clean Sweep!” an otherwise buttoned down and focused former municipal Judge Clifford Minor and his allies formally kicked off their Newark’s Choice campaign on the steps of City Hall this afternoon.
“Microphone! Microphone! came cries amid catcalls directed at unseen figures inside the impassive building. “Microphone!” in hopes that the challenger would amplify a voice that was direct and firm if faint without amplification.
“We believe the city lacks creativity and accountability,” said Minor, huddled in the cold with his team: former Essex County Register of Deeds Carole Graves, Central High School Principal Ras Baraka, former Mayoral candidate David Blount, businesswoman Charon Motayne and John Sharpe James, son of former Mayor Sharpe James.
“We are running to make sure people are served properly,” Minor added. “We believe crime is off the hook.”
Roars came from the crowd, which included former state poet laureate Amiri Baraka, bundled into a longcoat and hat, some recognizable allies of state Sen. Ronald L. Rice (D-Newark), and others.
“The police department is not serving the needs of the community,” added Minor, a former cop turned prosector turned judge. “It’s sinful that the police department doesn’t have computers in their cars.”
“Clean Sweep! Clean Sweep! Clean Sweep!”
Mayor for two decades before a jury found him guilty of corruption charges in 2008, James started a 27-month prison sentence even as his successor, Booker, campaigned on the front lines for Barack Obama. A voice on the other end of a phone in the Southern low security facility where James is housed says he’s due out in August, but his allies say he’ll be in a local halfway house next month on good behavior.
Now his son, an unsuccessful candidate for South Ward council who’s running with Minor as an at-large council candidate, poked at what the challengers see as Booker’s weak point: their view that he’s out of town, out of touch, and in abstentia installed too many out of towners in positions of power at city hall.
“I have a legacy here,” shouted the career solider who retired last year as an Army major. “My father dedicated the best years of his life to Newark. We’ve been disrespected. There’s no reason why City Hall shouldn’t be full of Newarkers.”
Irrepressibly lowkey as he goes after the man who’s young enough to be his son, Minor projected man-of-few-words gravitas in the mold of U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (D-Newark), who’s yet to formally endorse a mayoral candidate despite the fact that his son, At-Large Councilman Donald Payne, Jr., is running with Booker.
“I know he’s supporting me,” Payne told PolitickerNJ.com in reference to his congressman father.
Who Payne picks between Booker and Minor, who was once a high school student’s of Payne, is another story.
In evidently an attempt at a nostalgia chant, someone tried to start a “Cory Bush” rant, which quickly turned into, “Cory must go, Cory must go!”
As she considered the incumbent mayor, Graves drove in the carpetbagger tag from 2002 with a new added twist of wannabe celebrity and Bloomberg political godchild.
“Newark is not the 6th Ward of New York, hello,” said Graves, shouting over near deafening cries of “Minor, Minor” in the cheek-to-cheek crunch of bodies, cameras and sandwich signs.
“They do not care about us,” said the at-large council candidate. “You cannot govern and not be here. I don’t want to be on late night TV, ok? I want to be here with the people.”
Asked if he intends to lobby James for the more than $1 million the former mayor still has in his campaign account – or if it’s in the offing – Minor waved aside the question.
“This is a grassroots campaign. This is not about money, it’s about change,” said the candidate. “Sharpe James is going to come home and be a productive citizen of Newark.”