OPINION: Jeffries for Newark Mayor

Shavar Jeffries
Shavar Jeffries

By Matthew Gilson | The Save Jersey Blog

Last week I walked into a storefront on Bloomfield Avenue in Newark for a purpose different than any I ever had before, Save Jerseyans: I was there to see how I could help a Democrat.

Before someone revokes my Save Jersey writing credentials, let me try to explain! 

For those of you who do not know me, I am a student at Rutgers-Newark law school; the future of the biggest city in our state definitely matters to me. But as a New Jersey taxpayer, each and every one of you are paying for Newark (whether you realize it or not).  For me, the election on May 13th may literally be a matter of life or death, or at least from the perspective of my level of safety on a daily basis, but for all of us, what happens in the upcoming Newark mayoral race has strong statewide implications. 

That is why I was there in this crowded storefront. I recognize that no Republican is going to get elected in Newark in 2014, and Shavar Jeffries stands head and shoulders above his opponent Ras Baraka.

I’m not exaggerating: the grave implications associated with the outcome of this race are something that should concern each and every Save Jerseyan. 

For starters, Newark is our largest city and it also receives the largest chunk of state aid of any community. It’s a financial basket case, one that’s no better off for having had Cory Booker (D-Twitter) linger as an absentee mayor until a U.S. Senate seat opened up. Baraka, who uses the slogan “When I Become Mayor, We Become Mayor,” is running a campaign built upon the faulty premise that Newark can move forward by giving a gaint middle finger to the rest of the New Jersey taxpayers, taking their money and spending it however Ras Baraka sees fit. 

As you might have guessed, this is not exactly a winning strategy. Baraka’s fiery rhetoric is focused on his illogical opposition to popular charter schools and, predictably, pumping more STATE money into public school “failure factories” without any input from anyone outside of Newark who is footing the bill. 

Baraka’s nauseatingly hostile worldview is wholly divisive; he hopes to slip past Jeffries by manipulating the citizens of Newark into feeling as if they are at war with the rest of the state.

Newarkers would be making a huge mistake by following him over the cliff.

By contrast, Jeffries, who previously served as a Assistant Attorney General and Counsel to former New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram, has made a point of saying his goal is to work for Newark but also with the state.  He has rightfully criticized Baraka as more of an activist than a true leader.  To the chagrin of his critics in Newark, Jeffries was even seen dining with the state-appointed Newark school superintendent, Cami Anderson. Oh, the horror! Baraka isn’t interested in talking to anyone with a divergent viewpoint. He repeatedly made a name for himself by instigating scenes at school-related meetings and urged Newark residents to rise up against the oppression of the state of New Jersey (the people who, in case you’ve forgotten, bankrupt most of the city’s operations).

Newark, New Jersey
Newark, New Jersey

We’re also concerned about more than the financial bottom line of this battle, Save Jerseyans. Elections have consequences. Looking ahead to 2017, Steve Fulop continues to present as a strong Democrat contender for the governor’s mansion. And whom does Fulop back? Baraka, loudly and proudly, despite Baraka’s clear opposition to key Fulop campaign positions including education reform. He’s clearly fishing for allies ahead of the mounting Democrat primary battle.

A Baraka win would clearly bolster Fulop in terms of increasing his ability to command Democratic support in North Jersey as well as win him a critically important political friendship in the largest city in the state ahead of a statewide run. The same state that Baraka is at war with for the duration of his own race!

A Jeffries victory, however, would be a face-losing speed bump on Fulop’s march to Trenton, and anything that makes the Democrat primary more complicates is probably good for the GOP’s chances of holding on to the governorship.

Similar situations to what we’re witnessing in Newark are popping up across the state this spring. It’s imperative for the Republican Party to begin to grow our party in urban areas; that does not mean, in my opinion, that we should not back the strongest option when the only viable alternatives happen to be Democrats. 

Is Jeffries going to be winning any awards from conservative think tanks, organizations or news outlets like Save Jersey? Not even close, but the fact remains that someone has to win the race and sitting on the sidelines simply isn’t smart when Newark’s continued failure jeopardizes not only it’s own residents but those of the entire Garden State. 

That’s why I’m asking you to join me in hoping for a Jeffries victory next Tuesday.