Fight of the Week: Baraka v. Joe D

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Carlos Gonzalez’s moment to become a Newark municipal court judge came and went in almost less time than it takes to bang a gavel earlier this month.

On September 11, PolitickerNJ reported that sources were saying Gonzalez, an at-large Newark city councilman, was in line for a judge’s slot. The very next day, Gonzalez politely declined Newark Mayor Ras Baraka’s offer to don the black robes.

What gives? Nothing less than the continual give and take between Baraka and Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo for control of the county.

The Conflict’s Core:

Gonzalez, an attorney, North Ward resident and county employee, supported erstwhile Newark mayoral candidate Shavar Jeffries’ unsuccessful effort against Baraka earlier this year. DiVincenzo, who holds the reins of what remains of the North Ward Democratic machine, also supported Jeffries.

The results of the mayoral and council elections left Baraka on top, with a slim 5-4 edge on the council. Gonzalez, East Ward Councilman Augusto Amador and North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos, Jr., all members of Jeffries’ council slate, are part of a generally anti-Baraka bloc. The vote of At-Large Councilman Luis Quintana – a North Ward resident – is uncertain at best. 

Opportunity Knocks, Then Blocked:

When Gonzalez was poised to take the judge slot, the chance for Baraka to gain a more definitive edge in the council hung in the balance. 

Waiting in the wings was Patrick Council, an unsuccessful at-large candidate on Baraka’s mayoral slate but recently installed as the chair of the South Ward Democratic Committee. 

But after a reported sit-down between Gonzalez and members of the North Ward organization, the potential judge heeded the verdict of his political jury.

“After much consideration and consultation with my family, friends and community leaders, I have decided to continue serving the community as a Councilman-at-Large for the great City of Newark,” Gonzalez wrote in a letter to Baraka, declining the opportunity to replace outgoing the Honorable Bahir Kamil. “My passion has always been public service.”

The Verdict: Joe D wins first round of long-term fight

The county executive knocked down Baraka after the mayor, seeing an opportunity, threw the first punch. But DiVincenzo knows that in Newark politics, a knock-down is not a knockout. 

Fight of the Week: Baraka v. Joe D