NEWARK – Charon Motayne knows her opponents will bank on invoking one word to blow up her candidacy for Central Ward council.
It’s already happening.
Bring up the name “Motayne” to anyone in either city government or politics and before too long he or she mentions the fledgling candidate’s party affiliation by way of hitting the ejector button.
Anyway, they insist, while turning to what many regard as much more competitive territory in the South Ward, Central Ward Councilman Charles Bell is virtually unbeatable. Bell had Adubato muscle behind him in 2008, combined with some state Sen. Ronald L. Rice (D-Newark) street heft when he beat Booker’s union-assisted candidate. Now, Bell has joined the Booker team, effectively sapping the ward of any significant political rift.
But Motayne, 52, believes Bell’s affiliation with the mayor has weakened – not strengthened – him, and vaunts her own party creds in this overwhelmingly Democratic Party-run and registered city as a show of true independence.
And she has other weapons to be reckoned with, she argues.
“Everyone knows I have been a Republican since the day I was registered to vote,” says the CPA and Central Ward diehard, daughter of Essex County Freeholder Blonnie Watson (a Democrat), who is running as a May 11th muncipal elections ally of Booker challenger Clifford Minor.
“I have a disdain for how Democratic politics work in Essex County,” Motayne says. “I know African Americans are shaky with a Republican, but the people know me for being a person who advocates for the community. Democrats have no problem voting for Republicans when they have their little feuding and fighting, which is the only reason Jim Treffinger became county executive. Our mayor championed (Republican turned independent) Mike Bloomberg over in New York City. When you have a community activist getting things done, party affiliation is irrelevant. Given the real disconnect between the Democratic Party and the people, in Essex County there is no reason for people to feel spooked.”
Bell’s decision to align with Booker now means the entire city council backs the mayor, a situation Motayne believes deprives citizens of checks and balances. “The main reason I’m running is to see absolute representation on the council,” says the candidate. “There needs to be kind of independence between mayor and council so the council does not feel beholden.
“Yes, I’m aligned with Cliff Minor (and council candidates) John James (son of the former mayor), Ras Baraka, Juliana Blackburn-Maldonado, David Blount, and Carole Graves, but we are not running as ‘The Minor Team,’ as are our opponents are running as ‘the Booker Team.’ We are ‘Newark’s Choice.’
“We’re not going to be rubber stampers for Cliff Minor,” she adds. “I hope Cliff Minor is successful. But, realize this, Booker has the attention of the national media and he’s bringing the resources to his team members. Cliff Minor doesn’t have that capability. He has to raise money the same way we’re raising money. He’s not connected to powerful corporations the way Cory is.”
An irksome example of a toothless council, in Motayne’s opinion, includes a demolition contractor showing up on the site of the old Douglas Harrison property and contacting residents – even before the council had approved the contractor in question. Making matters worse, she says, is the contradiction of the mayor once having promised to use the eight-acre site for park land- now spearheading residential development on that property.
“The problem with Mayor Booker is he does not spend enough time performing the function he was elected to do,” says Motayne. “I have no problem with him getting ideas in other places, but not when you spend more time outside of the ward than you do in the ward solving problems. The administration is inept and incompetent. You call and you never get answers or problems solved. The Booker administration has the dollars and glitzy things, but there’s an undercurrent in the community. It’s going to be like a Jon Corzine situation. The council members are extremely vulnerable.
“One thing of major concern to Newark residents is crime, and Cliff Minor has a long history of fighting crime, first being a newark police officer walking the beat to a prosecutor and judge,” she adds. “He has a good perspective and understanding and background for these times. From the standpoint of a politician and someone who’s been in the trenches, he’s not bad.”
As for her own candidacy, Motayne anticipates either being ignored or – again – dismissed as the member of an irrelevant party. She means to fight back with every resource she can muster.
“I do hope to speak with Gov.-elect Chris Christie, and I definitely hope to speak to our party chairman, Kevin O’Toole,” she says. “Hopefully, I will receive some financial support from the (Republican) Party. I am independent. I’m not – nor will I be – someone who just goes and walks the party line. As I am reaching out for contributions, including contributions form the Republican Party, that’s going to be a conversation I have up front.”
Booker and his Newark Democratic Party allies claim to want inclusion, she argues, while running a nine-person council slate with just one woman (Council President Mildred Crump) on the team.
“That’s a travesty, and, of course, difficult for the mayor to explain since his objective initially was to have (School Board member) Nakea White,” says Motayne. “This shows you how someone’s intentions get broken apart by the machinery of Democratic Party politics here. Look around the country. On other urban councils, women are well-represented. Here there’s one woman on the Booker Team. It shows it’s all about politics for the mayor, not what’s fair and equitable.”
In addition to Bell and Motayne, other Central Ward candidates include Darren Sharif and Gregory Good.
Motayne knows they’ll all try to neutralize her with the GOP tag, but aggressively counters with the fact that she’s a woman, mother, accountant, community activist, Central Ward resident since age 4, and a citizen who’s fed up with Booker, his City Hall cronies, and a council she says is just going along for the ride.