NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Both sides in Newark’s mayoral race lobbed accusations of campaign finance shenanigans Tuesday as the campaign heated up a week before Election Day. A video of candidate Ras Baraka speaking to gang members also became a focus over allegations that it was derogatory toward the city’s Latino residents.
Dueling news conferences 90 minutes apart, one by a group supporting Shavar Jeffries and another by Baraka, culminated in a spirited, but civil, street confrontation between members of both groups outside a Baraka campaign office.
The two men are vying for the seat held by Cory Booker from 2006 until he was elected to the U.S. Senate last year. Former councilman Luis Quintana has served as interim mayor since January. The election will be held May 13.
While the major polling institutes in New Jersey haven’t weighed in on the race, Baraka acknowledged that Jeffries may have made some headway with a recent flurry of ads.
“When you’re spending $2 million to talk negatively, there’s going to be some movement,” he said. “The real poll is on election day. On election day we’re going to see that those polls are wrong.”
Baraka focused Tuesday on Newark First, a pro-Jeffries group that he claimed has spent more than $2 million on campaign ads, including more than $700,000 last week and this week on broadcast networks in the New York market. Of $1.3 million Newark First had raised as of its last financial filing 20 days ago, $850,000 had come from Education Reform Now, described by Baraka as “a group of Wall Street hedge fund operators” who are affiliated with Gov. Chris Christie and unpopular Newark school superintendent Cami Anderson.
“The people of Newark have a right to know who is putting $2 million into the campaign to sway the opinions of the voters,” he said, while acknowledging that campaign finance laws don’t require such disclosures.
Jeffries spokeswoman Lupe Todd called Baraka’s allegations “the height of desperation.” A spokesman for Newark First said the group has complied with campaign finance laws.
Earlier Tuesday, Newark First held a news conference on the steps of City Hall and criticized Baraka for allegedly accepting donations in 2012 and 2013 from companies that had no-bid contracts with the city. If true, that would be in violation of city policy.
“We feel this warrants further public comment and further public scrutiny,” said Chris Pernell, Newark First’s president.
Barak denied the allegations, saying, “I have not violated any laws whatsoever.”
The video in question shows Baraka talking to a group of people on a city street at night. He criticizes gang members for following leaders who “aren’t talking about education and employment” but talking about “getting high.” He tells them they should be talking about “who owns the Puerto Rican store, who owns the tire shop, who owns the supermarket, who owns the Popeye’s, who owns the Dunkin’ Donuts and how many of us are going to get jobs in those places.” Baraka said Tuesday his message was anti-gang, not anti-Latino.
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