Sharpe James (Press photo)

Disgraced ex-Newark mayor Sharpe James is tacitly planning a return to the political arena with a bid for an at-large council seat in the Brick City’s upcoming nonpartisan municipal elections in May, according to sources in and around Newark and recently published reports.

James filed paperwork in the past several weeks to be on a list of contenders for an at-large city council seat. According to documents and reports uncovered by ex-Port Authority of New York/New Jersey executive turned journalist David Wildstein. Wildstein was convicted in the notorious Bridgegate scandal in 2013. He is now the publisher of the New Jersey Globe, a controversial political website. A story about James’ attempted political comeback was posted on the site on February 2. 

James, 85, sat at the helm of Newark for 20 years—1986 to 2006. He served five four-year terms and defeated future mayor and New Jersey senator Cory Booker in a bitter and acrimonious campaign in 2002. James was eventually convicted of fraud and other charges in a high-profile federal case in 2008. He spent nearly two years in a federal prison camp and has since remained mostly out of the public spotlight. However, his mistress, Tamika Riley McReynolds—was also convicted in the illicit scheme and sentenced to jail time. McReynolds has written a book about the ordeal and is a motivational speaker. Despite being a convicted felon, it remains unclear if James can serve in any public office.

However, he is not the first disgraced politico in recent times to seek another run in politics. For example, last month, former Paterson Mayor Joey Torres inquired about a political appointment and was told he was ineligible to run to seek office again. Torres was convicted in 2017 for using city workers to perform renovations at his home. Similarly, disgraced ex-Trenton Mayor Tony Mack, convicted on federal corruption charges in 2014 and served nearly five years in federal prison, is also prohibited from seeking public office.

Additionally, James made recent headlines this past week after being involved in an automobile accident in Newark that sent three people to University Hospital. According to police reports, on Saturday, February 5, James’ vehicle collided with another car on Springfield Avenue. A pedestrian was struck and pinned underneath James’ vehicle, and a bus stop was damaged. Initial reports indicate that James appeared incoherent and confused. He was handcuffed at the scene and held under suspicion of DUI. However, as of now, no charges have been filed.

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