Former city councilman Ras Baraka declared victory Tuesday night in the race to succeed Democratic U.S. Sen. Cory Booker as mayor of Newark, topping a list of mayoral races around the state.
In Trenton, a field of six candidates was narrowed to two, who will face each other in a runoff. And in Paterson, former mayor Jose Torres held a commanding lead with only provisional ballots left to be counted.
Baraka, son of the late militant poet and activist Amiri Baraka, declared victory with almost all districts counted. He held a 54 percent to 46 percent lead over former state assistant attorney general Shavar Jeffries.
Baraka inherits a fiscal crisis that has left Newark in danger of being subject to state monitoring.
His supporters held a raucous celebration at a downtown hotel after he announced his victory.
Speaking to the crowd, Baraka wished his mother a happy Mother's Day and said he knew his father, who died in January, was "in the room tonight." He urged the crowd to "be the mayor" and work for positive change, a reference to one of his campaign slogans, "When I become mayor, we become mayor."
"We have a great city, an international city," he said. "Watch out, America, here comes Newark!"
The race between Baraka and Jeffries featured an expensive television advertising fight in recent weeks.
Baraka, whose father extended the political debates of the civil rights era to the arts world, had the support of the labor-connected New Jersey Working Families organization, which paid for ads accusing Jeffries of being a pawn of moneyed outside interests.
Jeffries, a former Newark school board president who's now a law professor at Seton Hall University, had the support of the independent Newark First organization. His ads accused Baraka of voting to increase his pay while laying off police officers in Newark, where murders spiked to a 10-year high last year.
A municipal council official has been serving as interim mayor of Newark, the state's largest city, since Booker won a special election to replace the late Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg.
A runoff election will be needed to determine the next mayor of New Jersey's capital city, where none of the six candidates secured at least 50 percent of the vote. The June 10 contest will be between Tuesday's top two vote-getters: Eric Jackson, who garnered 30 percent of the vote, and Paul Perez, who got 21 percent.
The winner will succeed Tony Mack, who was convicted on federal corruption charges in February and is due to be sentenced this week.
With all precincts counted in Paterson, Torres had 8,069 votes to 6,515 for city council president Andre Sayegh. Torres served eight years as mayor and left office in 2010.
At the New Jersey shore, Ocean City incumbent Jay Gillian won a second term as mayor, beating Ed Price. And Long Branch Mayor Adam Schneider won an unprecedented seventh term.
State monitors were on hand in some locations in an effort to ensure fair elections.