NEWARK – Shavar Jeffries allies are so fretful of the opppsition stealing their signs – they go up at 3 in the morning and they’re down by 4 in the morning, said a source – that they’re paying kids to walk around like human billboards, clutching “Shavar Jeffries” signs.
The Baraka side has similar stories of intrigue and connivance, going back most dramatically to operatives with the Jeffries campaign allegedly setting their campaign bus on fire.
But the human billboards are not the main way the Jeffries message is getting out there.
Not by a long shot.
Backed by a multi-million dollar air war financed by independent expenditure PAC allies of South Jersey Democratic kingpin George Norcross III – unheard of in a local election like this, unprecedented, and the proving ground of a new epoch in local politics – Jeffries ads continue to loop constantly on network television.
The candidate’s paid backers say it’s having an impact.
In the last 48 hours, a polling memo by Global Strategy Group released by independent expenditure group Newark First shows mayoral candidate Jeffries leading Ras Baraka by three points (40% to 37%). Jeffries is winning with Latinos by a 2-to-1 margin and continues to consolidate his support in the North and East Wards, according to the poll.
Norcross and company have the money for the air war on behalf of Jeffries, a former state assistant general.
Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo and his allies run the Newark North Ward-based ground war.
“I saw four commercials for Jeffries on Jeopardy last night,” a dumbfounded source told PolitickerNJ, as the statewide alliance of Norcross and DiVincenzo attempts to push Jeffries – the winner of an April 2010 school advisory board election his sole local elected government experience – across Tuesday’s finish line.
While Baraka forces denounce the Global memo as a “push poll,” take solace somewhat in their own internal poll showing Baraka up by eight and the overkill impact of constant mail and ads having the reverse effect of assisting Jeffries and, in fact, bothering savvy voters; and look to conventional grassroots and time-tested Newark guerilla tactics to hold fast against the Jeffries onslaught, they are, in the words of one insider, “concerned.”
“Of course it’s a push poll but it’s moving,” a source said of the Global numbers relased in the memo. “It’s moving the needle every day.”
Sources describe perfect political storm conditions for Norcross and DiVincenzo to move aggressively behind Jeffries, including the upstart political move by Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop (a likely 2017 candidate for governor) to back Baraka, former Senate President Dick Codey (D-27) attempting a comeback by aligning with the South Ward councilman’s candidacy, and the “upstart” nature of Baraka the candidate himself, hardly “a Norcross type,” in the words of this source.
“Everything is aligned” for an “all in” establishment effort for Jeffries, said the source.
In addition to television, two sources said Jeffries allies will have $500,000 to a million in Election Day GOTV dollars.
Eleven day pre-Election Day reports show the Jeffries Campaign with less than $3,351 cash on hand. His team account, supplied by campaign spokeswoman Lupe Todd but not posted on ELEC, shows $470,110 cash on hand.
Baraka reported $173,835 cash on hand in his individual mayoral campaign account, according to ELEC.
The Global Polling memo asserts that voters who have decided who they are going to vote for in the past few weeks support Jeffries (64% Jeffries/36% Baraka). “Voters are more likely to have seen, read, or hear about Jeffries than Councilman Baraka recently. And Jeffries continues to build support with voters who are familiar with both candidates (48% Jeffries/38% Baraka).”
Behind targeted independent expenditure mail attacks on Baraka and his brother, who serves as his chief of staff, the poll also shows Baraka’s unfavorable ratings (26%) upticking by 10 points since the end of last week, while has favorable ratings (55%) have dropped 6 points. Jeffries (54% favorable/18% unfavorable) is viewed just as favorably, but has much lower unfavorable ratings than the councilman.
Global conducted the poll of 506 likely voters between May 5 and May 8 for Newark First.
“The bottom line is this: Shavar Jeffries has taken the lead for the first time in the race for Newark Mayor, and voters across the city are lining up behind his record of advocacy and against Ras Baraka’s failed leadership. Jeffries has clear, positive momentum moving into the final days of the campaign and is well-positioned to become Newark’s next mayor,” said GSG Founding Partner Jeffrey Plaut.
Newark sources close to both campaigns continue to assert that Baraka’s core allies have more visible passion for their politically homegrown candidate, who has over 20 years of campaign experience as a canddiate for office in Newark and a base built out of past forays citywide and his own successful run for the South Ward seat in 2010.
Insiders on both sides assert the impressive dimensions of Baraka’s campaign itself, which moved quickly to define Jeffries and attempt to soothe doubters about the councilman’s demonstrably radical side.
But the independent expenture salvos have put the battle-tested Baraka in a new arena.
“The facts remain the same,” said Baraka spokeswoman Tai Cooper. “This push poll is just like the shiny glossy ads that Shavar has to mail out every two seconds to gain attention – simple and without substance. Any organization that would try to pass a push poll as truth is as deceitful as the commercials that Shavar Jeffries has been running. The Jeffries template for this campaign has always been to trick and deceive the voters of Newark. Simply put he is trying to sell a false image to Newark and what he and his Wall Street backers will soon realize is that Newark is not for sale.”
While a source close to Newark First disputed the characterization of Plaut’s work as a “push poll” and Democratic Party sources vouch for his reputation in numerous campaign theaters, PolitickerNJ has not seen a copy of an actual poll, although PolitickerNJ has asked.