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Mayor-elect Ras Baraka takes office July 1

Craig D. Frazier | 6/26/2014, 5:52 p.m.
During the course of his campaign, Mayor-elect Ras Baraka won the hearts of the citizens of New Jersey’s largest city ...
Ras Baraka

During the course of his campaign, Mayor-elect Ras Baraka won the hearts of the citizens of New Jersey’s largest city with slogans like “Believe in Newark” and “When I become mayor, we all become mayor.” The 45-year-old councilman and former high school principal emerged from a hard-fought campaign as a major player in state and county politics.

Observers say like it or not, he now has his own power base that will make him a future force to be reckoned with in New Jersey. Those who did not support Baraka during the campaign now must make him their friend.

What is still to be determined is how the incoming mayor will operate his politics on a statewide level. Newark faces a $93 million deficit, and the only way to plug the gap might be through a state takeover. “We are talking about a kind of strategy—a long-term and a short-term strategy,” Baraka said last week following his election. “We know the state doesn’t want to have another burden of taking over the problems of Newark because the state has their own problems. To take on ours would be counterintuitive.”

Baraka, Gov. Chris Christie and County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. recently met in Trenton to discuss crime, education and the city’s budget. According to DiVincenzo, the governor told Baraka that the state has no interest in taking over the city’s finances. “Christie believes Newark’s mayor-elect should take the lead role in handling the city’s budget problems,” said DiVincenzo. “He believes he just got elected by the people. He should be able to have the opportunity to move the city forward.”

Baraka, along with his transition team, which is comprised of 32 business and community leaders, are set to move Newark forward when he is sworn in on July 1.