Post-Booker Newark

The election last night that I didn’t cover in my GOP-centric take focused on WV and NE was, of course, in Newark, where councilman Ras Baraka (son of poet Amiri Baraka, known as LeRoi Jones back when I first read him in the 60s) beat law professor Shavar Jeffries by a 54-46 margin after an expensive and bitter Democratic primary. Fairly or not, the contest was viewed both locally and regionally (a lot of New York money and words were spent on the race) as a referendum on the direction Newark took during the tenure of former mayor and now-U.S. Senator Cory Booker.

With Baraka’s win, post-Booker Newark may now operate less under the Senator’s shadow, for good or for ill. Without question, Wall Street influence over the city’s economic development plans and educational system will almost certainly decline, and you can probably expect new tensions between the city and Chris Christie’s state government. Baraka had very intense support from labor, which he’ll need to count on in dealing with Newark’s chronic problems.

For outsiders, it will be interesting to see if the national attention Newark obtained when Booker was in charge continues or disappears, and whether developments back home complicate what many expect to be a national political career for the former mayor.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.