By David Wildstein
Voters in three wards will go to the polls on Tuesday when a runoff election for a trio of seats on the Newark City Council.
The most watched race is in the East Ward, where five-term councilman Augusto Amador faces former Newark Chief of Police Anthony Campos. In the May election, Amador led Campos by 269 votes in a five-candidate field.
Now the North Ward army has headed to the East Ward to preserve the old Steve Adubato-Joe Parlevecchio coalition in support of Amador. North Ward councilman Anibal Ramos, who re-election with 80% in May, has been allied with Amador on the council and is looking to retain that alliance. Sammy Gonzalez, one of the top North Ward operatives (and the husband of State Sen. Teresa Ruiz), has been on the ground for weeks building a ground game. Essex County Sheriff Armando Fountoura is heavily engaged in the Amador campaign.
For Mayor Ras Baraka, it’s heads, he wins, tails he wins. Amador was his running mate, but Campos also endorsed him.
West Ward councilman Joseph McCallum received an anemic 31% in May, finishing just 111 votes ahead of Mecca Keyes in a field of six candidates. State Sen. Ronald Rice, who held the West Ward council seat for sixteen years, has come to the rescue of a failing campaign. Now that Rice is now fully engaged in the campaign, Newark insiders say, McCallum has emerged as the favorite to hold his seat.
McCallum was considered the weakest link on Baraka’s team. Two of McCallum’s former council aides, Marcellus Allen and Artice Norvell, challenged their former boss and won a combined 14%.
The runoff for the Central Ward council seat vacated when Gayle Cheneyfield-Jenkins ran for mayor has the markings of a big win for newcomer LaMonica McIver, a community activist and director of personnel for the Montclair Public Schools. Baraka was McIver’s fifth grade teacher and in 2018, her running mate.
McIver received 41% in the May election and now faces community leader Shawn McCray in the runoff. She outpolled McCray in the first race by 1,063 votes.
Cheneyfield won just 25% in the Central Ward in a race so poorly executed that her running mate for her own council seat finished third, 117 votes behind McCray. McCray, who won a near-identical percentage in 2018 as he did in his third-place finish in 2014, has no real political organization, and the Baraka campaign thinks they’ll have an easy win for McIver.
Turnout is typically a challenge in June runoff elections. In 2014, where the mayoral election was more competitive, the Central Ward had a drop off from 6,882 votes in May to 3,665 in June. The West Ward attracted just 2,599 runoff votes – less than half of the 6,214 cast in May.