Newark voters head to the polls in a steady stream
NEWARK — The contest between a high school principal and an attorney, two men from the city's South Ward, has apparently sparked enough interest to draw out more voters than most recent local elections.
But this is not a "street fight," exactly.
"During the James-Booker race they came out more then than they are now," said Henrietta Myrick, a longtime poll worker at West Side High School.
"It's more than usual," said Elaine Neves, a poll worker at East Side High School. "But it's not droves. It's steady."
There was elevated interest at the polls beginning at 6 a.m. — when they opened, said several poll workers at South Ward polling locations.
But the turnout still fell short of presidential-election levels — and also of the 2002 Newark race that pitted a young councilman named Cory Booker against longtime incumbent Mayor Sharpe James, which came to be refered to as a "street fight" after a documentary captured the incendiary race, said others.
"It's not that heavy, and it's been pretty quiet," said Martha Rodriguez, a poll worker at the Robert Treat Academy.
Both campaigns aggressively pushed to get their base out during the day. Throughout the city's five wards, Jeffries' fliers were handed out on street corners, brandished at busy intersections, and left on car windshields.
Baraka's camp was also present at the busiest intersections, holding up signs and banners. Both were active on social media, urging supporters to bolster the numbers.
Voters weighed in on the issues — crime, schools, economic development — but in different ways. For instance, Vernon Pinkney and Noble Milton were concerned about crime. For Pinkney, that meant a Baraka vote. It meant the opposite for Milton.
"Once you address crime, everything will follow that," said Milton.
"Schools are the most important," Pinkney said. "If we're not cultivating the youth, then these kids are going to be running these streets."
The voters also had different opinions on the contentious campaign, which fueled weeks of headlines. Tonya March, a Central Ward voter, said the battle actually would bring out the best in a potential leader.
"It doesn't matter. If you're a leader, you go through this small stuff," March said.
For some, the issues are secondary to the candidate himself.
"It was about picking the right man," said M. Santos, an East Ward voter, as he left his polling site with his wife.
Andra Gillespie, an associate professor of political science at Emory University, has studied Newark politics and written about it ever since the 2002 race when she was a Yale graduate student watching Booker's failed campaign. This year, Jeffries' blitz of TV ads in recent days has pulled the race tighter than it has ever been, she said.
Today's effort to get voters to the polls will mean everything to tonight's results, Gillespie said.
"It's the GOTV (Get Out The Vote) that wins," Gillespie said. "It's the mobilizing of the vote on Election Day that will make the difference."