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Booker on track for Senate seat

Glenn Townes | 10/10/2013, 4:50 p.m.
Cory Booker officially launching campaign for N.J. State Senate

As Newark Mayor Cory Booker is perched to snag the vacant seat in the U.S. Senate in a highly anticipated special election on Wednesday, speculation as to who the usually uncompromising Newark City Council will choose to succeed him for the remainder of his term is rife among many Newarkers and other residents across the Garden State.

If Booker wins the seat, members of the Newark City Council will have to choose someone—most likely a council member—to complete the remaining months of Booker’s term and ultimately seek the mayorship at the next general election. Among the names being bantered about are Council Members Ras Baraka, Anibal Ramos, Ron Rice and Darrin Sharif.

Booker, 44, has sat at the helm of the Brick City for nearly two terms. His current tenure expires next year; however, he is the odds-on favorite to win the special Senate election on Wednesday to fill the seat held by longtime politico Frank Lautenberg, who passed away earlier this year. Booker faces Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan for the spot. According to various recent state polls, Booker leads Lonegan by a wide margin—as much as 20 percent in some polls. If Booker wins the seat, he will immediately become senator and vacate his post as mayor.

The Booker administration and members of the Newark City Council have had a longstanding and highly publicized bitter relationship. The two have clashed on a number of issues over the years and lambasted each other repeatedly. For example, at Booker’s annual State of the City Address last year, South Ward Councilman Baraka and Council Member At-Large Mildred Crump shuffled noisily off stage and walked out during the middle of Booker’s speech, in which he sharply criticized a number of bad decisions and lapses in judgment on dozens of issues.

Additionally, state officials in Trenton accused council members of being “lazy” when the organization dragged its feet on approving a budget to Trenton on time. After being threatened with sanctions and the elimination of much needed funding, the Council approved the budget, but it was well past the initial deadline.

Finally, James Weingart, a political science professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, said that given the high level of divisiveness and acrimony among the Council, “It won’t be easy finding a successor for Booker.”

One blogger was more universal in his opinion and posted, “We need a new mayor and a new City Council!”

The special election will be held on Wednesday.