May 13th Campaign Flashpoints and Trail Tidbits

LEACH’S INTERESTING TWO-HATTED CHALLENGE

There is considerable speculation in Newark/Irvington about the Election Day role of CWA Local 1039 President Lionel Leach.

Leach serves as the campaign manager of Newark Central Ward candidate Gayle Cheneyfield-Jenkins, who stands at ground zero of a battleground ward in the contest to control Newark.

Incumbent Councilman Darrin Sharif and Central Ward Democratic Committee Chairman Andre Speight (running on the Shavar Jeffries ticket) are also vying for the Central ward council seat.

While running operations for Cheneyfield-Jenkins, Leach is simultaneously trying to nail down an Irvington council seat on incumbent Mayor Wayne Smith’s ticket.

Will Leach’s own personal war for survival in Irvington hinder his ability to help Cheneyfield-Jenkins survive in Newark?

Update: veteran Democratic Party/labor operative Safanya Searcy will take over for Leach in the Central Ward on Election Day. 

QUINTANA IN UNCHARTED TERRITORY

A man who survived as an ally of both Newark Mayor Sharpe James and later Mayor Cory Booker, Acting Newark Mayor Luis Quintana wants to re-secure his at-large council seat.

But he’s in uncharted territory as he goes after one of four in-play at-large seats.

He ran with James and he ran with Booker when those brand names exuded popularity.

But now, scratching a path back to the campaign trail out of city hall, Quintana’s having a harder than usual time finding a home in the warring campaigns and straddling the city.

Neither ticket created space for him, which means he’s trying to cozy up to both sides as needed, or reject either side when called for, making it a very slippery game this season for the veteran Quintana.

VITALE IN WITH BARAKA

State Sen. Joe Vitale (D-19), Woodbridge, surfaced in the 11-day Pre election report of Newark mayoral candidate Ras Baraka. Vitale gave Baraka a check for $500.

FINAL 11-Day Pre-ELECTION NUMBERS IN TRENTON

CASH ON HAND: $61,199 for Eric Jackson; $28,388 for Jim Golden; $18,968 for Walker Worthy; $12, 556 for Paul Perez; and $4,897 for Oliver “Bucky” Leggett. Candidate Kathy McBride’s report was unavailable.

BAYONNE MONEY BLOW-OUT

It’s a lament echoing through Bayonne right now: “If only we had more money.” Attribute that to the Jimmy Davis campaign: $3,774 cash-on-hand, compared to $252,775 in the individual campaign account of incumbent Mayor Mark Smith.

THE ADUBATO EFFECT

Not as engaged as he was in the day-to-day operations in 2006 when North Ward Democratic candidate Anibal Ramos took on and defeated incumbent Councilman Hector Corchado, Adubato left to his protégés – Ramos, Phil Alagia, Sammy Gonzalez, M. Teresa Ruiz and Joe DiVincenzo – the reins of the city’s most consistently impressive political machine. Tuesday is a test for that team minus the second-to-second command presence of their political mentor – mostly for Ramos, who has absorbed into his own North Ward patronage command structure much of the power that used to belong solely to the North Ward Center high command.

WHERE WILL THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN VOTE GO IN THE PATERSON MAYOR’S RACE?

Incumbent Mayor Jeff Jones insists he’s fine, and believes he will win re-election tomorrow. While Jones reports less than $5,000 cash-on-hand, the mayor points to his 2010 victory, when he defeated the $700K plus-Torres with less than $100K. But $2K ain’t $100K, and there are other indications for concern in the Jones camp. Other black leaders have stepped over him in the endorsement battle: Ward 3’s Bill McCoy stands with Torres; At-Large incumbent Councilman Ken McDaniel is with Sayegh; veteran incumbent At-Large Councilman Ken Morris and Jones are political hostiles; etc. Torres and Sayegh have both signaled a hunger for African-American votes: Torres motivated in part by the threat two other Latino candidates in the mayor’s race pose for him; Sayegh because he needs them to offset Torrres’ natural built-in advantage as the best known Latino in a majority Latino city.

CAN BARAKA WITHSTAND JEFFRIES’ LATE PUSH?

In the closing days of the election, the Global Strategies polls by Jeff Plaut consistently showed Baraka failing to get over 40%, which Shavar Jeffries wants to capitalize on tomorrow by driving high vote totals among Latinos in the North and – using the tools of Jeffries’ home ward resonance, the alliance of U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (D-10) and a strong effort by South Ward Council candidate Brian Logan – depriving Baraka of big South Ward numbers. Jeffries’ allies worst fear? An unforeseen South/West Ward explosion that busts through Plaut’s polling memos and caves in a delicately constructed model.

IF JEFFRIES LOSES, WHAT HAPPENS to THE JOE D-GN3 RIFT?

It worsens, say sources. By endorsing the incumbent Republican governor last year, DiVincenzo appeared well-positioned – alongside Union City Mayor Brian P. Stack – as Gov. Chris Christie’s top Democratic Party ally. But Norcross was irritated at DiVincenzo for outright endorsing Christie and jeopardizing the Joe D/GN3/Sweeney triumvirate. If Jeffries can’t get past Baraka tomorrow, look for GN3 to find more reasons to be upset with his long-time Essex County ally.

BOOKER IRRITATION

At one point – early, in fact – Baraka shelved the anti-Booker rhetoric. There’s likely a reason for that. Smelling a post-Booker power shift, several key operatives and grizzled former Booker-bots merely transitioned into Ras world, leaving Jeffries on the outside of a Newark good old boys’ network. The Jeffries air war showed statewide muscle flexing, but internally, the shadowy figures really running city politics appeared to have already cut their deals. To the hardest veterans, Jeffries was less objectionably a Norcross crony than simply a City Hall outsider.

IF BARAKA LOSES, WILL HIS LOYALISTS BE ABLE TO DIGEST THE LOSS?

The members of Team Baraka feel they ran a textbook campaign assisted by some good luck (the release of Superintendent Cami Anderson’s One Newark Plan). They are also convinced that Jeffries ran a less than stellar campaign further hindered by bad luck (see parentheses above) and campaign misfires (the bus burning incident). Then the unprecedented independent expenditure air war dropped in the ballpark of $2 million on top of them in two to three weeks – and probably far north of then what all tallied – and what once looked like a slam-dunk has turned into a headline dogfight. Given all the conventional rules of engagement in a citywide mayoral contest, Team Baraka’s most dogged adherents do not see any possible outcome but Baraka victory. Anything short of that will mean the election was stolen, or so some sources have hinted to PolitickerNJ. But if Jeffries can muster a GOTV operation tomorrow and somewhat duplicate the Booker on-paper model for victory, he has a pathway that worked in the past: combining high Latino voter turnout, political alliances built and maintained by the North Ward Democratic Organization and an appealing personal campaign narrative. That ground game coupled with the Jeffries IE Baraka bombardment should tighten the contest, or so hopes Team Jeffries. Still, given the clear-cut political edges attained by the campaign, death by a thousand cuts through the cold months of the contest, many Baraka soldiers would see a Baraka loss as a sham, sources say.

IF JEFFRIES LOSES BUT KEEPS IT CLOSE, WILL HE HAVE DONE ENOUGH TO COME BACK?

When he trailed Baraka by 56 points, Jeffries appeared slated for the cold slab of Newark politics. But if he gets within ten points tomorrow, or make it closer than that, he can conceivably repackage himself for a future run – so argue his allies. Booker lost in a showdown with Sharpe James in 2002 then bounced back with a win over Ronald L. Rice in 2006.

LARUE’S SOCIAL MEDIA PUSH FOR JACKSON

Democratic Party political insider and lobbyist Jeannine LaRue tonight posted her endorsement of Trenton Mayoral candidate Eric Jackson on all social media outlets. “I will be casting my vote for Eric Jackson because I believe he has the integrity, the knowledge of running government, and the best interest of this City at heart,” said LaRue, a Trenton resident. “I also believe that Eric Jackson has something we will need more than anything else after the dust from this campaign clears to create a vision that we all can see and the ability to bring this City together.” 

CAN PASCRELL KEEP THE PARTY GOING?

All-in with Council President Sayegh’s mayoral candidacy, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9) wants to capitalize on power demonstrated in his historic 2012 Democratic Primary victory and transfer his popularity to a local nonpartisan race. Will it work?

Come back here tomorrow.

And stay here.   

May 13th Campaign Flashpoints and Trail Tidbits