Baraka, 44, targeted his "Take Back Newark" campaign at Wall
Street investors, New Jersey's powerful political bosses and the
state leadership, which has controlled the city's schools for two
decades and is mulling a takeover of its finances for 2014.
"Today, we told them that the people of Newark are not for sale,"
Baraka said in his victory speech on Tuesday, after defeating fellow
Democrat, former state assistant attorney general Shavar Jeffries,
with 54 percent of the vote.
"We told them that people outweigh money in a democracy."
His message has resonated in Newark, a city of about 277,000 people
located 12 miles from New York City. Once a bustling port, it became
a hotbed of corruption and a national example of urban decay in the
Critics say the anti-Wall Street rhetoric might reverse some of the
philanthropic gains and partnerships built up by Newark's
high-profile former mayor, Democrat Cory Booker, who stepped down in
November to take a U.S. Senate seat.
"If the new mayor is seen as hostile to those investments that will
certainly be factored in to the future investments," said Frederick
M. Hess, a philanthropy expert with the American Enterprise
Booker courted Wall Street and Silicon Valley, attracting billions
of dollars that helped to revitalize broad swaths of downtown
Newark. That money has not made its way to the hardscrabble
neighborhoods or struggling residents, Baraka's supporters say.
"Ras Baraka's instincts are to think about pathways to support and
grow working families. When he talks about economic development,
he's not saying it only needs to happen downtown," said Analilia
Mejia, the director of New Jersey Working Families Alliance, which
supported Baraka's campaign.
A former city councilman and a high school principal, the mayor is
the son of late poet and militant activist Amiri Baraka, a
galvanizing force in Newark since race riots in 1967 cleaved the
city, leading to years of corruption and suburban flight.
He has pledged to tackle the most stubborn issues, notably a 13
percent unemployment rate, by tapping into resources that include a
major international airport, the fourth largest shipping port in the
country, and the geographical advantage of its proximity to New
But he failed to convince New Jersey's largest newspaper, The
Star-Ledger, which endorsed his opponent, and voters who expressed
concern that money would stop pouring into the city.
[to top of second column]
"I've seen a lot of change, good progress from that national
attention," said Addie Johnson, 61, a lifelong Newark resident. "We
don't want to be seen as turning away a helpful hand."
tapped into voter anger at the state government's heavy hand in
Newark, including its control over the city's school system and the
looming threat of a state takeover of its finances amid a $93
million budget deficit.
Combating Newark's notorious crime, including the highest murder
rate in two decades, is among Baraka's top expressed priorities. He
has promised to treat crime as a public health issue, with job
training and prevention, and by introducing an FBI-backed anti-gang
The Newark Police Department would not comment on his anti-crime
Baraka has also called for the ouster of schools superintendent Cami
Anderson, hand-picked by Booker and New Jersey's Republican Governor
Chris Christie in the months after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg
announced a $100 million grant to help reform Newark's public
Anderson's plan to close and consolidate a quarter of the city's
schools and the implementation of more charter schools, have led to
walkouts and protests by parents.
Political experts say Baraka's ability to sustain relationships with
Wall Street and other moneyed partners and to negotiate with
lawmakers in Trenton, specifically the Christie administration, will
be key to his success.
"I think he does understand the give and take of negotiations in
politics," said Professor Roland V. Anglin, director of the Joseph
C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies at Rutgers University.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Gunna Dickson)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.