Potential Booker exit previews bare-knuckle 2014 mayoral race

Questions, suspicion dominate debate over Booker’s replacement in Newark

If this is a preview of the 2014 Mayoral race, then bare-knuckle politics appears to be alive and well in Newark.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s decision to run for the U.S. Senate in a special election this year has raised questions and opened old wounds in the city he will leave behind if he wins.

The Newark City Council, already fractured from a brutal political fight in November over a council vacancy, now has to choose a president amid a seeming stalemate among the eight sitting council members.

That newly named council president could become interim mayor.

Booker officially announces his senate campaign

Booker announces U.S. Senate run, creating blockbuster primary race

And so, it begins.

It’s not what Cory Booker was expecting. It’s not the marathon campaign that would have given the Newark mayor a year and then some to criss-cross New Jersey, meeting voters in every nook and cranny, using his trademark charisma to win them over.

It’s the complete opposite: A two-month sprint to a special Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, one with an increasingly crowded field of big names who could split the vote and stop — or slow — his rise to national power.

With that as a backdrop, and the death of U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg as its grim cause, Booker ended months of speculation this morning and officially announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate.

Christie announces special election for Senate seat, mad scramble ensues

Christie outlines special election for Lautenberg’s U.S. Senate seat

This was one of three options available to Christie: an early special election, a special ballot on Election Day in November when the gubernatorial race will take place, or a special appointment.

The announcement is expected to catalyze the Democratic race for the seat, in which Mayor Booker is widely expected to announce his candidacy.

Gov. Chris Christie today called for a special election in October to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death of Frank Lautenberg, setting in motion an all-out sprint for the office but immediately drawing criticism from Democrats.

Christie said the Democratic and Republican primaries will be held on Aug. 13, and the general election on Oct. 16. The winner of the general election will serve out the remainder of Lautenberg’s term, and the next election will be held, on schedule, in November 2014.

In response to the news, West Ward Councilman Ron C. Rice tweeted:

By placing Special Election ahead of November, our Gov not only serves his personal ambition but also sets off political intrique in Newark

Boy, did I ever choose an interesting time to start blogging again.

Booker’s lack of face time in the city has residents grumbling

David Giambusso: The absentee mayor? Cory Booker’s endless travel schedule pulls him away from Newark

Arguably the most prolific tweeter in American politics, Booker has mastered the art of having a presence without being present. And while his detractors take issue with Oprah Winfrey’s characterization of Booker as a “rock star mayor,” based on his touring schedule she might be right.

Great in-depth piece on the psychological impact to Booker’s national agenda in Newark. Less face time in the community means less trust, and it brings to mind early criticisms of the Mayor’s being an “outsider.”

Debate Rages Over Local vs. State Control of Newark Schools

Jersey Jazzman: Newark Will NEVER Have Control Of Its Schools

Thoughtful and angry counterpoint on state-appointed superintendent Cami Anderson’s overriding the locally elected school board’s vote against leasing school buildings to charter schools.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, the state-appointed superintendent of Newark’s schools’ told its duly elected advisory board to go jump in the Passaic.

There is simply no way that Newark, under the current New Jersey educational regime, is going to get its schools back. The Broadies who have infested the NJDOE want charters, and they want them run by their people. Nothing is going to stop them; certainly not a bunch of noisy parents who don’t want to see school funds dumped into charters that don’t do any better than the local public schools.

It’s true that there are a lot of mediocre and even ineffective charter schools in Newark. A search on GreatSchools.org, which evaluates schools on a one-to-ten scale based on standardized testing results, shows that there are, indeed, many charters that don’t do better than their public school counterparts. There are also public schools that are great—Ann Street school in the Ironbound has been a Blue-Ribbon winner in years past.

The challenge is to figure out how the effective models are scaled up across the city and the problem schools are either fixed or dissolved quickly.

Given the facts provided by the Ledger, this doesn’t sound like a situation where wildly successful schools were being shut down to favor charter schools run by highly-paid consultants. It sounds like the board approved to keep mostly empty schools from consolidating and foot a million-dollar renovation bill out of fear, uncertainty and doubt.

(To the board’s credit, it sounds as though Anderson didn’t supply details about the charter schools applying to lease the buildings, so they didn’t have much to go on.)

I argued that the pragmatic decision here was to lease the buildings: buoy the budget, expand the schools that are reporting successes, and consolidate the tiny schools that meet in enormous, aging facilities.

It seems the Star Ledger Editorial Board agrees with me.

Star Ledger: The Newark advisory board’s irrational vote on charter schools

The rational policy here is obvious: Allow the charter schools to rent some of the empty space in conventional schools, or even entire schools. They could serve more kids and the district could earn rental income.

But this is Newark, where politics often veer into the absurd. So the Newark school board, after a raucous meeting on Monday, voted against a series of leases — including those sought by North Star and Team.

And now Cami Anderson, the superintendent, has vetoed the board’s vote and signed the leases. At least someone in power is looking after the interests of the kids in Newark first.

As a Newark parent, I have skin in the game in this decision, something that most of the Star Ledger Editorial Board and, I suspect, Jersey Jazzman don’t have. My oldest is about to enter kindergarden, and it took us some time to evaluate the options and come to a decision—one I’ll detail in another post.

Newark schools need leadership that will make hard decisions, study successful trends, be willing to experiment, and use resources carefully. In those terms, I think Anderson’s decision trumps that of the board.

There may be something to the idea that prevention of returning control of the schools to Newark would be better for Newark kids.  But using this vote to make that argument is misguided.

More July Fireworks: the Return of the MUA

Star Ledger: State threatens to withhold aid unless Newark council introduces budget

Didn’t get enough fireworks on July 4th? Just wait for July 19th.

The debate over a politically contentious Municipal Utility Authority to manage the city’s water supply comes into sharp focus again as the state sets a deadline for Newark to deliver its 2012 budget.

Under a memorandum of understanding between the city and the state last year, Newark agreed to introduce its budget by Feb. 29. The state Department of Community Affairs has looked the other way in the intervening months.

That ended Thursday afternoon around 4 p.m.

“Newark City Council is now more than 4 months late introducing its budget and, as with last year, is on track for being the last municipal governing body out of more than 540 calendar-year municipalities to introduce its budget,” Local Government Services Director Thomas Neff wrote to the city’s nine council members.

Star Ledger: Newark Central Ward Councilman Charlie Bell faces re-election challenge from 8 candidates

Star Ledger: Newark Central Ward Councilman Charlie Bell faces re-election challenge from 8 candidates

The unlikely marriage of Mayor Cory Booker’s money and Councilman Charlie Bell’s clout is not taking any of the fight out of the 2010 Central Ward council race.

With eight other candidates having filed so far, the seat is the most widely contested in the city and two months before election day, challengers are knocking on doors, raising money, and courting district leaders in a political battle royal.

Politicker NJ: In Salahuddin aftermath, James targets the mayor

Politicker NJ: In Salahuddin aftermath, James targets the mayor

For all of James’s zeal, the absence of Minor in the aftermath of the Salahuddin announcement furrowed the brows of more than several Newarkers on both sides of the mayoral contest. Why wasn’t the challenger at a makeshift podium in front of City Hall demanding a mop up?

“We’re not here to go tit for tat with Booker,” said James, in defense of Minor’s strategy. “We’re not here to have press conferences and command cameras. Booker has the media locked up. We’ll let him do that. We’re not going to get attention and we’re not going to outspend him. But we had 200 people at our community meeting tonight and, yes, we talked about the indictment. We’re going to win this campaign 100% on the streets.”

In the hands of a gifted politician, the indictment of a senior City Hall official could be a major stumbling block to an incumbent’s campaign. Cliff Minor, apparently, is not that politician.

Reporting for Policker NJ, Max Pizzaro notes the unsubtle irony that the former mayor’s son is casting aspersions in the name of anti-corruption.

“It’s a night and day comparison,” added the son, when asked about Salahuddin and his father’s entanglement with the feds.

Cory Booker, Runner-Up

Well, that’s it. Mayor Booker was ousted handily from the race. After diligent efforts and a once-thought unstoppable campaign, it appears that the 6.1 Million Dollar Man has met his match and ought to throw in the towel and concede victory.

As the New York Times, reports, Booker was beat out by nearly 300,000 followers, Gavin Newsom, the Twitter Prince:

Samepoint, a social media search engine based in Manhattan, has named Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco, “America’s Most Social Mayor.” The start-up company accorded Mr. Newsom the title after running a formula that primarily considered the number of politicians’ followers and fans on Twitter and Facebook.

Mr. Newsom, with almost 1.4 million followers on Twitter, far outstripped the mayor in the No. 2 spot, Cory Booker of Newark, who has just shy of 1.1 million followers.

Oh, wait, what? You thought I was referring to that other race? Oh, no — that other guy is still going to lose.

In Newark, political family connections …

Star Ledger: In Newark, political family connections play prominent role in campaigns

Names like Payne, Rice, James, and Baraka will all appear on council ballots this May, carrying a long, and sometimes pained, history of political battles. Of the 40 candidates who have filed for council races so far, 11 have strong family connections to Newark politics, and of those, seven are incumbents or considered viable by political observers.

“The famous line from Tip O’Neill is that all politics are local,” said Carl Sharif, a political advisor on decades of Newark political campaigns and former campaign manager to Mayor Cory Booker. “In Newark, all politics are personal. All politics are family.”

But in Newark, where homegrown credentials are a practical pre-requisite for office, familial ties are no guarantee of a political alliance.

Newark is at an intersection of small-town politics and big-city opportunities: politicians who embed themselves into the political system have substantial resources to wield and few challengers to unseat them — Sharpe being the obvious example.

If we want to build sustainability that outlives our current leadership, we need to become intentional and focused on developing the leaders of tomorrow.