Newark Mayor's Race: Baraka, Jeffries tout support for city's LGBT community

By Naomi Nix/The Star-Ledger
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on April 08, 2014

Shavar Jeffries, left, is in a two-way race with South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka to be the next mayor of Newark.


NEWARK — Newark's two main mayoral candidates expressed support tonight for the rights of the city's lesbian and gay population during a candidate's forum, but showed little difference in their platforms.

South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka and former assistant state Attorney General Shavar Jeffries spoke to an audience of about 100 at Rutgers-Newark during a forum hosted by the Newark LGBTQ Advisory Concerns Commission, an independent body within the mayor's office established to be a liaison between the city and the gay community.

The candidates, who are just five weeks away from the May 13 election, have been participating in a series of debates hosted by various community groups over the last several weeks.

During last night's debate, Jeffries repeatedly emphasized his experience as a civil rights lawyer, saying he has a track record of fighting for minority populations.

"We have to move from talk to action," he said

Baraka touted his his record as principal of Central High School, and said he took measures to make sure gay students felt comfortable.

Both candidates talked about the need for the city to partner with gay-friendly businesses, hire people in the LGBT community, and make sure city police receive diversity training.

The mayoral hopefuls also spoke of the need to expand health services in local communities so gay residents have better access to medical care.

"We need to advocate for more funding," Baraka said.

Baraka and Jeffries also drew from their personal experiences with gay loved ones as they talked about the need to treat people equally regardless of their sexual orientation.

Jeffries said it was "heart-breaking" when he found out his gay cousin, who he described as a father-figure, felt as if he had to keep his sexual orientation a secret for 20 years.

Baraka said one of the people who taught him sensitivity to the experience of the gay community was his sister, Shani Baraka, who was killed along with her partner in 2003 by her half-sister's estranged husband.

"I loved my sister so how could I not love someone else?" he said.

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