Baraka was declared victor last night after claiming 54 percent of the vote with 96 percent of precincts reporting. Baraka served as deputy mayor to Sharpe James as well as principal of Central High School and the councilman for Newark’s South Ward. He will replace Mayor Luis Quintana, the councilman sworn into office following the departure of former Mayor Cory Booker. Booker was elected to fill the seat of late Senator Frank Lautenberg in a special election in October.
Newark elections are non-partisan, though both candidates identify as Democrat. The race was spirited to say the least, with angry confrontations, mudslinging ads and a torched campaign bus. The election echoed the 2002 race between James and Booker. The race was also notable for its cost, exceeding $3.5 million.
Baraka is tasked with fixing a myriad of problems facing Newark, including the city education system. The Newark school system, which has been under state control for two decades, remains a point of enmity and was one of the election’s most fiercely debated topics. Though Booker experimented with education reform, few inroads were made (a New Yorker story this week documents why Booker’s partnership with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg did not meet expectations). Additionally, much ire was drawn from “One Newark,” a controversial school reorganization plan that would relocate and consolidate one-quarter of the city’s schools as well give certain neighborhood schools to charter operators. Jeffries, who was endorsed by The Star Ledger last week, received backing from charter school interests, while Baraka won the support of the teachers union—an alliance that will likely come into play in his tenure as mayor.