James family returns to Newark City Hall as former mayor's son wins council seat

By David Giambusso/The Star-Ledger
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on November 05, 2013

John Sharpe James, pictured in this file photo was elected tonight to fill the seat vacated by Rep. Donald Payne (D-10th Dist.)


Roughly a week after former mayor Cory Booker left Newark City Hall, the James family returned.

John Sharpe James, son of former Mayor Sharpe James, was elected to a vacant at-large council seat tonight in a commanding 40 point victory over the next highest vote getter, according to unofficial returns.

"We know the real Newark. We know what Newark used to be," James told a crowd of roughly 200 supporters at Newark's Key Club. "We need to go back to that Newark."

The James family has been among Booker’s biggest critics for more than a decade. James, the son, has run twice for the council during Booker's seven-year reign, but was unsuccessful until tonight.

His election comes as City Hall grapples with a tenuous transfer of power. Luis Quintana, the former council president, was made mayor Monday, days after Booker was sworn in as a U.S. Senator, once again leaving an empty council seat on the nine-member legislature.

With the crowded election season, the three candidates vying for the seat in tonight’s special city election did not get a lot of attention. Violence, jobs and education were the central issues of the race.

James, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan with a law degree from Rutgers, beat Lynda Lloyd and Yvonne Garrett Moore winning roughly 60 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns from the Essex County Clerk’s office.

During the campaign, James said he would make jobs, crime and schools a priority.

"I just do not want to have unfettered charter schools," he said in a recent interview, adding that community members have to play a direct role in charter school governance. "Is their allegiance going to be 100 percent for education of our youth or is it going to be for profit?"

James also promised to take a hard look at the city budget, with an eye toward hiring more police officers.

"There’s no way the number of police we have right now can adequately do their jobs," he said.

After the city laid off more than 160 officers in 2010, hundreds more retired. The police department currently has less than 1,000 uniformed officers — its lowest level in more than a decade.

The council seat filled tonight was vacated in November 2012 when Donald Payne Jr. was elected to fill his father’s seat in the U.S. Congress. The vacancy sparked a riotous public meeting after Booker tried to fill the seat with an ally.

Booker lost the bid in an ensuing court battle and tonight’s special election was scheduled.

Now James, Baraka and Councilwoman Mildred Crump form a likely block against Councilmen Anibal Ramos, Carlos Gonzalez and Augusto Amador. Sharif and Councilman Ron Rice, who is stepping down next year, become wild cards in future votes.

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