Newark mayor's race: Negative advertisements intensify in final stretch

By Naomi Nix/The Star-Ledger
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on April 24, 2014

Outside groups have spent thousands of dollars on advertisements in the Newark mayoral race between South ward councilman Ras Baraka and former assistant attorney general Shavar Jeffries. Pictured is a screenshot of a commercial recently released by Newark First, an independent group supporting Jeffries.


NEWARK — Negative advertising in the Newark mayoral election has intensified this week, with groups supporting each candidate releasing television commercials attacking their rivals.

South Ward councilman Ras Baraka is competing against former assistant attorney general Shavar Jeffries in the May 13 election.

The commercials are just the latest example of independent expenditure groups spending thousands of dollars on this year's election.

Newark First, an independent group of Jeffries' supporters, launched an advertising campaign Wednesday attacking Baraka's record of managing city finances.

"Who will move Newark in a new direction? Not councilman Ras Baraka," the narrator said. "Jeffries is a different kind of leader."

The group has raised more than $1.3 million. Its donors include several financial executives and an $850,000 donation from Education Reform Now, a politically active education reform organization, according to its election filing report.

Newark First has spent almost $425,000 on the election, the report says.

The group also recently launched a website calling for Baraka to disclose financial records.

"The Baraka campaign will continue to ignore the totally fallacious press releases of Newark First until Shavar Jeffries discloses all of his secret donors and the amounts they are donating to him through Newark First," Baraka's communications director Frank Baraff said in a statement.

Working Families Organization, which supports Baraka, released a television commercial this week which compares Jeffries to Gov. Chris Christie and says he is beholden to special interest groups.

"Shavar Jeffries answers to the wrong people which means he won't listen to us," the narrator said.

Jeffries spokeswoman Lupe Todd said in a statement that the commercial was a distraction from Baraka's failure to be prudent with taxpayer money while serving on the city council.

"It’s pretty obvious why Ras Baraka and his supporters would prefer to play six degrees of separation rather than discuss Baraka's record,” she said.

The commercial is similar to others Working Families Organization has released, which cast Jeffries as a Newark politician who caves to the interests of Christie and Newark Schools Superintendent Cami Anderson.

The group has spent $159,000 on television commercials, according to election records.

The ads have not skewed entirely negative, though. Earlier this month, Jeffries' campaign released its own commercial in which he is shown talking with his two young children and wife on a sofa.

The 30-second spot explains Jeffries grew up in the South Ward and his mother was murdered when he was 10 years old.

"As mayor, he'll fight to end the violence," the advertisement says. "For his family. And yours."


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