ATLANTIC CITY – Newark Mayor-Elect Ras Baraka, in his own words “exhausted” after his victory in Tuesday’s election, found the fire inside to call out the New Jersey state Democratic establishment on Friday morning regarding the party’s future direction.
“We’re the party that succeeds even in the face of big bosses,” said Baraka, vigorously pointing out towards the crowd of 400 applauding Democrats, including the table up front where State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) was looking on. “We’re the party that organized people in the face of huge money. We need a party that stands up.”
Baraka’s comments came just 72 hours after many New Jersey political observers say the outcome of the Newark mayoral race didn’t just move around the pieces on the Garden State’s political chessboard.
Rather, to some Baraka’s victory flipped the chessboard over, then smashed it in half.
PolitickerNJ.com previously reported that several Democratic sources indicated that Baraka’s now-defeated rival in the Newark mayoral race, Shavar Jeffries, conversed with Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo and with allies of South Jersey Democratic power broker George Norcross III regarding his political future. These sit-downs suggested an alliance between North and South Jersey to ensure Jeffries’ victory, which proved unsuccessful.
DiVincenzo endorsed Jeffries the day before the election.
Norcross is also a close ally of Sweeney (D-3), the potential South Jersey blocker of the gubernatorial ambitions of North Jersey’s Steve Fulop, Jersey City’s mayor. Fulop endorsed Baraka in February, as did former Governor and current State Senator Richard Codey (D-27).
PolitickerNJ.com reported last month that a Philadelphia-based Democratic political media and consulting group, whose clients include close associates of Norcross, paid for recent cable television campaign advertisements sponsored by Newark First, the pro-Jeffries independent expenditure group, according to documents provided by a local cable television company.
After Baraka’s remarks, made at the mayor’s luncheon at the annual New Jersey Democratic State Committee Conference in Atlantic City, Sweeney offered his view of New Jersey’s political landscape following the outcome of the Newark mayoral race.
“Honestly, I don’t think it changed anything,” Sweeney told PolitickerNJ.com after giving his own remarks. “Newark has a problem that we all have to help fix – it’s a $93 million [budget deficit] hole that has to be addressed somehow and corrected. I don’t think it’s changed the landscape at all.”
Sweeney, who endorsed no candidate in the Newark mayoral election but said he believed that there was “momentum” behind Jeffries towards the end of the campaign, added that he called Baraka to congratulate him.
“I can’t wait to hear from him,” Sweeney said.
Baraka, who accepted the well-wishes of many of those in attendance after his speech, saw things slightly differently.
“This is exciting. People have been congratulating me since I walked through the door,” Baraka told PolitickerNJ.com. “People are astonished that we were able to be victorious against the barrage of money and the machine working against us. This is not an everyday thing, and labor also felt victorious because they were on the ground supporting us.”
“Sweeney called me,” Baraka added before he left the event, shaking more hands on the way out. “I just didn’t return his call yet.”