NEWARK – Mayor Cory Booker wanted to win every ward, but he especially craved a win in the South, home to some of his most dogged critics, including Ras Baraka.
But while Booker defeated challenger Clifford Minor 59%-41% on Tuesday, the South proved to be the only one of Newark’s five wards where the mayor could not subdue his elder rival, giving Minor his lone symbolic victory.
According to the City Clerk’s Office, Minor defeated Booker 5,028 to 4,025, dealing a blow to that part of the Booker campaign strategy seeking a victory in the politically complex home of former Mayor Sharpe James. The idea was to spread Booker’s strength so that he did not project dominance from the North Ward alone.
North Ward power broker Steve Adubato told PolitickerNJ.com in the hours before Election Day that he was confident Booker would win the South Ward, which Booker won easily in 2006 but has since struggled to entice to his side. Conscious of the volatile environment, the campaign had solid commits and an intensified, targeted battle plan. Although the mayor competed on relatively even terms with Minor, he still lost the South by 1,000 votes.
Booker also lost his staunchest ally on the council down here – South Ward Councilman Oscar James – who was defeated 4,487 to 2,897 by Central High School teacher Baraka.
Booker beat Minor in all of the city’s remaining four wards, with his largest margins of victory predictably in the Latino and Portuguese sections of the city. In the lower than usual performing North, which lacked a ward contest, the mayor crushed Minor, 5,925 to 1,162. In the East, he won by a margin of 3,638 to 655.
Alert to the anti-Booker organizing efforts of state Sen. Ronald Rice in the west, Booker campaign manager Pablo Fonseca foresaw the ward as flat, and that proved true. Booker narrowly defeated Minor in the West Ward, 3,509 to 3,027.
A contest for the Central Ward council seat held by Booker ally Charles Bell drove numbers in the ward where the mayor first served as a councilman. Booker won the ward, 4,300 to 3,052.
Central Ward Councilman Charles Bell is scheduled to compete in a runoff election against Darrin Sharif, the second highest vote-getter on Tuesday.