Newark Mayor Ras Baraka to announce re-election bid Thursday

NEWARK -- After a first term presiding over a downtown building boom, employment and technology initiatives, and the hiring of police officers to address crime city-wide, Mayor Ras Baraka will make it official on Thursday: he is running for re-election.

Baraka will hold a noon press conference on the steps of City Hall, joined by members of his City Council slate and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Murphy, who was endorsed by the mayor early in the primary race.

"Over the past three years, our beloved city has grown from 'Newark 2.0' and then 'Newark 3.0' to 'Newark Forward'," Baraka said in a statement on Wednesday. "This represents our vision for moving our city -- our economic growth, our institutions, and most importantly, our people."

Baraka, a 47-year-old Newark native, thanked his administration, City Council members, and county, state and federal officials who had worked with him during his first term on initiatives intended to build lasting prosperity in Newark, particularly for those constituents who have not always shared in the city's gains.

"I look forward to continuing to work with them all to ensure that the interests of our residents are protected and that we remain vigilant in our service to them all."

On Wednesday night, for example, the City Council is scheduled for a final vote on an inclusionary zoning ordinance that would require 20 percent of new apartments in buildings of 30 units or more be set aside for low and moderate income earners.

On Monday, Baraka -- son of the late poet and activist Amiri Baraka --  will join city employers to lay out details of his "Newark 2020" initiative, which aims to hire 2,020 city residents by the year 2020.

Baraka has raised taxes to pay for additional police officers in an effort to restore police ranks depleted during tough economic times under Baraka's predecessor, Cory Booker. The campaign said the Newark Police Department has graduated 253 new officers from the academy since Baraka took office in July 2014. During that time, according to the campaign, "Newark saw the biggest crime drop in 50 years."

Baraka has become a common sight at groundbreaking and ribbon cutting ceremonies for development projects, among the most notable being the opening of a Whole Foods supermarket in March, which is part of the mixed-use redevelopment of the Hahne & Company Department store site.  

Wednesday's announcement said campaign offices will open in each of the city's five wards over the next several months. The campaign is being led by Baraka's brother and longtime advisor, Amiri "Middy" Baraka, who had served as the mayor's chief of staff.

Wednesday's announcement, issued by his "Team Baraka" campaign staff, listed accolades from the White House and national publications collected by Baraka in the three years following his win over an assistant state attorney general, Shavar Jeffries, in the May 2014 mayoral race.

"He was listed in The Nation's 2015 'Most Valuable Progressives' as 'Most Valuable Mayor', Ebony Magazine's 'Power 100,' and on the front page of the New York Times for 'defying expectations' during his first year-and-half in office,"  the announcement crowed.

Baraka, a spoken word artist who has made recordings with Lauren Hill and others, is a former principal of Newark's Central High School.

He was first elected to the City Council in 2002, and while a councilman Baraka was occasionally critical of his predecessor, Booker, who is now New Jersey's junior U.S. Senator.

Baraka's first, unsuccessful bid for mayor was in 1994, at age 24.

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