Monday, March 27, 2006

Longtime Newark Mayor Ends Bid for Sixth Term

This made my day!  It looks like Cory Booker's a shoo-in, which is GREAT news for the people of Newark, who have suffered under James's corrupt regime for 20 years!  Cory, by the way, is a HUGE supporter of genuine school reform, is an outspoken national leader in this area, and sits on the board of the fabulous North Star Academy charter school in Newark.
Longtime Newark Mayor Ends Bid for Sixth Term
Published: March 27, 2006

Sharpe James, one of the last big city black mayors to come out of the civil rights movement, announced yesterday that he would not seek a sixth term.

Sharpe James entered his sixth race for mayor 11 days ago with the flourish of a Las Vegas heavyweight, arriving at City Hall to deliver his petitions in gym shorts, astride a police bicycle.

Mayor Sharpe James, who entered his sixth race for mayor 11 days ago, dropped out of the race today, withdrawing his name only hours before the ballots were to be sent to the printer.

Only 11 days after entering the race with the flourish of a Las Vegas heavyweight — arriving at City Hall to deliver his petitions astride a police bicycle — Mr. James withdrew from the May 9 election with a six-page letter delivered to the City Clerk's office just minutes before the ballots were to be sent to the printer.

Mr. James, who is also a state senator, said in his letter that he was leaving because he was "an opponent of dual office holding" and wanted to focus on state issues. He denied that age was an issue, despite having recently turned 70. And he emphasized that if he had stayed in race, he would have won because New Jersey's largest city is better off now than in 1986, when he was first elected.

"Under my leadership Newark has climbed the rough side of the mountain and has become a renaissance city with pride, prosperity and progress," he wrote. "Newark is now a destination city with planned programs and economic projects that will surface over the next decade."

Mr. James's withdrawal from the race clears the way for a race between State Senator Ronald L. Rice and Cory Booker, 36, a former Municipal Council Member and Rhodes Scholar whose second campaign for mayor has been chugging along for months.

It also puts an end to an era in which Newark's fortunes and national image have been inseparable from the showmanship and civic chauvinism of its mayor.

"Sharpe James is really the last of that group of New Jersey politicians that came to power as a result of the Newark riots," said Reginald Jackson, executive director of the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey. "It's the end of a major era in the life of the city because I'm not sure anyone now has the capacity to put together a machine like Sharpe James did. He dominated the politics of Essex County, and in some major ways, the state."

Mr. James grew up poor on Howard Street in the city's South Ward. A teacher before entering politics, he started his civic career as a member of the Newark Municipal Council in 1970. As mayor, he developed a reputation for being the bedraggled city's most exuberant cheerleader, a defensive protector who was not above using his political machine or the contentious issue of race to get what he desired for Newark.

Clement Price, a historian at Rutgers University who teaches a course about this mostly black city of 280,000, said that the mayor deserves credit for helping Newark "recalibrate its image" after the 1967 riots that were among the nation's most violent examples of racial strife.

"He will be remembered as one of the leading figures who successfully slowed down and all but stopped Newark's slide into invisibility," Mr. Price said. After 40 years, he added, "the civil discourse has finally moved beyond the riots. Sharpe James forced people to look toward the future, not the past."

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