In Newark, the Revenge of Sharpe James?

The former mayor isn't on the ballot for Tuesday's elections. But, loyalists to Sharpe James, including his son, are running for City Council. They could strike a blow against Cory Booker, Newark's ambitious young mayor who is James' one-time rival.
by | May 10, 2010

The 2002 race for mayor of Newark, New Jersey was famous enough that someone actually made a movie about it. As I understand it, the reason that election captured the public's fascination is that it was seen as a battle over the future of African-American political leadership.

The incumbent mayor, Sharpe James, reflected old-school civil rights activism. The challenger, Cory Booker, represented a new generation of (post-racial?) black leadership. He'd been educated at Yale, Oxford and Stanford.

James beat Booker in 2002, but, after that, their careers diverged. Booker easily was elected mayor in 2006 when James didn't run. The former mayor ended up going to jail after being convicted of corruption.

In that context, the New York Times looks at tomorrow's municipal elections in Newark. Booker is expected to be reelected. James isn't on the ballot. Still, the echoes of that 2002 contest remain. James' son is among the candidates who are challenging Booker's loyalists on the City Council:

Mr. Booker is still the energetic youngster, full of optimism and eloquence — “Newark has stood up and said, ‘We will be a light unto the darkness, we will be the hope amidst despair,’ ” he declared at a recent appearance — and political analysts say there is little doubt that he will win.

But in a low-turnout election, some Council incumbents, all of them backed by the mayor, might be vulnerable, and the mayor’s margin of victory could be much smaller than in 2006.


The challengers in Tuesday’s nonpartisan election — all the major candidates are Democrats — include a slate with strong ties to the old guard and to Mr. James, who was the mayor for 20 years.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer

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