In Newark Pick A New Mayor After Seven Years Of Booker
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[May 13, 2014]
By Victoria Cavaliere
(Reuters) - Voters in Newark will pick a
new mayor on Tuesday to fill a post held by popular Democrat Cory Booker
and steer New Jersey's largest city as it struggles with an uptick in
violent crime, unemployment and a possible state takeover of its
Booker, who served for seven years as mayor and used his national
profile to help attract billions of dollars in investment to Newark,
about 12 miles from New York City, is now a U.S. Senator. He won a
special election last October to succeed Senator Frank Lautenberg,
who died in office.
Former City Council President Luis Quintana has held the interim
The two Democratic candidates vying for the job are Shavar Jeffries,
39, a former assistant attorney general and a civil rights lawyer,
and Ras Baraka, 44, a high school principal, city councilman and the
son of the late activist and poet Amiri Baraka.
In this heavily liberal city, a Democrat is virtually guaranteed
The candidates have touted their Newark roots in an election seen as
a referendum on the staying power of gains made by Booker, including
large-scale investment from Wall Street and Silicon Valley, most
visibly a $100 million matching grant for school reform from
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
The new mayor will also have to tackle the city's most vexing
issues, including a 13 percent unemployment rate among its 277,000
residents and the highest murder rate in more than two decades.
Baraka has called for the implementation of a plan known as
Operation Ceasefire that compels gang members to end their
affiliation and receive job training and education. Jeffries said
crime prevention should include both enforcement, reintegration and
treatment programs for low-level offenders and drug users.
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Jeffries and Baraka have both made education reforms a centerpiece
of their campaign, voicing careful support for the controversial
"One Newark" school reorganization plan that calls for the
consolidation, closure or relocation of one-quarter of the city's
Newark also faces the threat of a state takeover of its finances
after showing an "extraordinary level of fiscal distress," according
to a letter sent to city officials from Tom Neff, a state financial
A shortfall in tax revenue could leave the city some $93 million
short in its operational budget for 2014. Some $30 million of that
deficit was racked up in Booker's last year in office.
(Editing by Edith Honan)
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