If Bill de Blasio needs a partner in rebuilding America’s urban core, he can now look west, just across the Hudson River, to Newark, where Ras Baraka was elected mayor yesterday. Baraka’s election means a lot to progressives, organized labor, teachers and others in Newark, New Jersey’s largest city—and it is a significant defeat for Governor Chris Christie and his allies in the Democratic party, including former Newark Mayor Corey Booker and the Democratic party bosses George Norcross and Joe DiVincenzo. It might also represent a key tipping point for the next New Jersey race for governor, which—if Christie resigns in the scandal that is plaguing him or, alternately, if and when he resigns to run for president—could happen as early as 2015.
While Baraka was backed strongly by New Jersey’s Working Families Alliance, the teachers union, the Communications Workers of America and the rest of organized labor, lots of money from Wall Street, hedge funds and the wealthy charter school movement poured into Newark on behalf of Shavar Jeffries, Baraka’s opponent in the race. As The Wall Street Journal reported just before the election:
The two men have both looked to New York City for money, but their donor bases are different. Independent expenditure groups have poured money into the local race, with two groups spending more than $600,000 on network and cable television ads, according to a person familiar with the spending. Mr. Jeffries has been backed by a number of New York financiers—much as Mr. Booker was—along with lawyers and education leaders. Mr. Baraka has the support of artists such as Spike Lee and Ms. Hill and professors such as Princeton University’s Cornel West, along with prominent alumni from his Howard University days.
And in another piece, the Journal noted:
One super PAC, Newark First, has raised more than $1.3 million to support Mr. Jeffries, according to its filing. Contributors included several financial executives and Education Reform Now, a New York City-based group begun by financial fund managers who support charter schools.
Newark First, of course, is a front for the charter-school movement, notes PolitickerNJ:
But the largest contribution to the pro-Jeffries Newark First group came from another group, Education Reform Now, who donated $850,000.
On the group’s website, Education Reform Now defines itself as an organization in which “policy objectives are built around strengthening innovation, public charter laws, accountability, high-quality new school development, transparency on finance and student results, and best practices for turning around low-performing schools.” Members of the group, including board members who have experience working at high-powered Wall Street hedge funds, are active in the Success Academies network of charter schools.
On the issue of education, the difference between the two is stark. Baraka is the principal of a Newark public high school. Jeffries started a charter school. Bob Braun, who writes the popular New Jersey blog Bob Braun’s Ledger, described Baraka’s victory like this: