NEWARK – Newark Mayor Ras Baraka indicated that a primary race in the state 29th Legislative District will probably not take place.
“[Essex County Democratic Party Chairman LeRoy Jones] and I have spoken about what’s going on, and I think we’re going to come to some agreement in the end,” said Baraka at a Wednesday night town hall meeting at the Azores Social and Sports Club in Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood. “We haven’t finalized everything, but I think we’re going to come to an agreement. I don’t think there’s going to be any real mess in our district at all.”
Sources have told PolitickerNJ that increased fundraising efforts by Baraka and his allies indicate that a primary fight might be looming in Legislative District 29 against Democratic Assemblywomen L. Grace Spencer and Eliana Pintor Marin. The LD 29 assemblywomen would reportedly be challenged by Alturrick Kenney and Patrick Council, sources stated.
Kenney is a former Newark School Advisory Board member who now works in the office of Newark Deputy Mayor Rahaman Muhammad. Council is Newark’s director of neighborhood and recreational services and a past member of the School Advisory Board. Both Kenney and Council ran unsuccessfully last year for an at-large council seat.
A looming LD 29 fight would highlight the struggle for Essex County dominance between Democrats Baraka and Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo.
DiVincenzo backs the reelection of Spencer and Pintor Marin, and sources have told PolitickerNJ that Essex County Democratic Party Chairman LeRoy Jones is inclined to stick with the LD 29 incumbents because Baraka already has steady allies in the other state legislative district that includes parts of Newark, Legislative District 28.
The LD 28 Assembly duo, Democrats Ralph Caputo and Cleopatra Tucker, backed Baraka early in the 2014 Newark mayoral race, suggesting that the LD 28 front could be quiet in the 2015 election, when the entire state Assembly is up for grabs. Caputo and Tucker reportedly remain acceptable to Jones.
This year’s Assembly races could also be a moment of both settling old scores and looking to the future for Baraka. Pintor Marin supported Baraka’s rival, Shavar Jeffries, in last year’s mayoral contest. Spencer, who was then Newark’s municipal prosecutor, stayed out of the mayoral battle.
But on Wednesday night, any 2014 strife seemed forgotten as Baraka remembered to mention the presence of Assemblywomen Pintor Marin and Spencer, who were applauded after they addressed the concerns of Ironbound residents about the opening of numerous hookah stores in the neighborhood.
Meanwhile, East Ward Democratic Chairman Angelo DiFederico, a DiVincenzo ally, and Amiri ” Middy” Baraka Jr., Ras Baraka’s brother and chief of staff, animatedly conferred in a corner.
The atmosphere amidst the more than 200 neighborhood residents present at the town hall meeting was at times raucous. But Baraka’s mood seemed to be one of a politician willing to bide his time.
“At the end of the day, if we can come to an agreement, that’s always the best thing to do. Nobody wants to have a fight,” Baraka said. “You only fight when there is something to fight about.”