Rebuke of Charter Schools Is Seen in Newark Election

The new mayor will confront immediate problems: Newark has its highest murder rate in two decades; the state has threatened to take over the city’s troubled finances; and the school system, run by the state for two decades, has been beleaguered by criticism of the superintendent, who was handpicked by Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican.

Mr. Baraka, a councilman, a high school principal and a son of the late firebrand poet Amiri Baraka, was a persistent critic of Mr. Booker, a fellow Democrat, and in his campaign appealed to those who wanted a mayor to pay more attention to Newarkers’ needs. “When I become mayor, you become mayor,” one of his slogans proclaimed. He won despite being largely outspent by his opponent, Shavar Jeffries, 39, and groups that supported him.

Groups supporting Mr. Baraka ran ads casting Mr. Jeffries, also a Democrat, as the puppet of the governor and Wall Street groups that support charter schools and had donated lavishly to him and outside groups backing him.

One television spot featured a clip of Mr. Christie declaring: “I don’t care about the community criticism. We run the school district in Newark, not them.”

“For the past 20 or 30 years, you’ve had a rightward drift among the Democratic Party, and what we’re seeing now in election after election is that Democratic electorates are desiring a full-throated conversation about wealth inequality and robust public services,” said Seth Hahn, the legislative and political director for the Communications Workers of America in New Jersey, which has 70,000 members in the state and was at the center of a coalition of public employee unions working to elect Mr. Baraka. Mr. Hahn cited as examples the victories of Senator Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts and Mayor Bill de Blasio in New York.

“The message that we saw resonate, that really held the line for Baraka against this onslaught of money,” Mr. Hahn said, “was that people wanted public schools to be protected.”

Charter schools are popular in Newark — one in five schoolchildren attends one. But Mr. Baraka and his supporters particularly galvanized anger at Cami Anderson, the school superintendent, over a plan that would have shifted the city away from neighborhood schools, and closed some. The debate had become so toxic that Ms. Anderson announced she would no longer attend school board meetings.

“Cami Anderson handed Ras the football at the 50-yard line, and he just ran it down the field,” said Bruno Tedeschi, a political consultant who worked for Mr. Jeffries, a law professor at Seton Hall and a former assistant state attorney general.

“I think their message in the campaign, which was reinforced by the independent expenditure organizations, was that Shavar was no different from Cami Anderson and Chris Christie, and he wants to destroy the schools,” Mr. Tedeschi said. “Obviously nothing could be farther from the truth, but they hammered it and it seemed to resonate.”

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