Newark mayor's race: Candidates ask U.S. Attorney to monitor election

By James Queally/The Star-Ledger
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on March 31, 2014

Newark mayoral hopefuls Shavar Jeffries and Ras Baraka (left to right) traded accusations of corruption and voter intimidation on Monday, ending with both candidates calling for the federal government to monitor the May 13 election.


NEWARK — With less than six weeks before Newark elects a new mayor, candidates Ras Baraka and Shavar Jeffries exchanged allegations of misconduct, corruption and voter intimidation yesterday, ending with both calling for federal officials to monitor the voting booths on election day.

Hours after Baraka filed a lawsuit hoping to force two members of the Essex County Board of Elections to step down, claiming both created a "conflict of interest" by supporting Jeffries, Jeffries fired back calling on U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman to monitor the race. He also accused Baraka's supporters of using violence and threats to stymie Jeffries' supporters, according to a letter obtained by The Star-Ledger.

In the letter penned by Jeffries' attorney Malee Wang, Wang called for federal and state officials to monitor voting booths in the South, Central and West Wards, which are typically Baraka strongholds, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day, which is May 13.

"We believe that the ability to vote for the candidate of one's choice absent intimidation and duress is a fundamental right," the letter read.

Wang also claimed a Jeffries' supporter was assaulted by a Baraka supporter last year and said Newark Housing Authority residents have been threatened with eviction and had their water shut off if they expressed support for Jeffries.

Frank Baraff, Baraka's chief spokesman, countered that Newark police officer Keith Salters, whose brother is Jeffries' political director, illegally detained a Baraka supporter over the weekend after he saw people taking down signs.

Baraka's lawsuit demands board members Fran Adubato and Lee Fisher step down after they publicly endorsed Jeffries, claiming they created a "conflict of interest." Baraff said his office will also call on Fishman to intervene.

“The Baraka campaign is preparing a request for federal monitors because of the conflict of interest and past corruption at the Essex County Board of Elections," Baraff said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office had no knowledge of the letter from the Jeffries campaign and declined comment. A city spokeswoman also had no knowledge of the complaints against the Housing Authority. Calls to the police department seeking comment on the allegations from both campaigns were not returned.

Lupe Todd, Jeffries' chief spokeswoman, scoffed at the idea that Adubato and Fisher could not remain impartial.

"Ras Baraka has stooped to a new low today in his desperate attempt to attack Shavar because of the widespread support his campaign has built. The reality is, it's our election to win, and Baraka knows it," she said. "Fran Adubato has served on the board for years without anyone questioning her integrity or ability to carry out the requirements of her job and we agree."

Todd also said Fisher endorsed Baraka when he ran for school board in 2011.

The assault claim stretches back to November of 2013, when a dust-up between Baraka and Jeffries' supporters was caught on video. A female Jeffries' supporter claimed she was punched in the face, but she would not give her name when approached by The Star-Ledger and she did not file a police report.

Baraff and Baraka have repeatedly denied the intimidation allegations. Todd denied Baraff's allegations regarding Salters.

"Officer Salters allegedly came upon Baraka campaign volunteers who were ripping down Jeffries signs, gave them a warning, and he let them go," she said. "That is what I’ve been told. If there has been some police report filed, we know nothing about that.”

The most high-profile incidence of vandalism on the campaign trail happened in February, when someone tore up seats inside of Baraka's campaign bus and set a small fire inside the vehicle. No one has been arrested.

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