Jerry Clifton, a fixture in Newark politics for more than two decades, was elected mayor in Tuesday’s election.
The longtime councilman won in a landslide, taking 55 percent of the vote in the four-person race to replace Mayor Polly Sierer, who did not seek re-election.
Catherine Ciferni came in second with 25 percent, followed by Brandon Farzad at 14 percent. Kasai Guthrie, a University of Delaware sophomore who was hoping for a strong student turnout, came in last with 6 percent of the vote.
“It’s a humbling experience, and to win this big is certainly even more humbling,” Clifton said Tuesday night. “I had three class people running against me, and Newark can be darn proud they had a very spirited election, yet an above-board and a very positive campaign. I am proud to have been on the ballot with each and every one, and I can’t wait to start working.”
First elected to the District 2 council seat in 1997, Clifton went on to be re-elected eight times, including in 2005 when he won a historic write-in campaign after initially deciding not to run.
In 2014, Clifton resigned midway through his ninth term, citing health problems. Three years later, with his medical issues resolved, he won back the seat for a 10th term in 2017.
Now, the 68-year-old resident of Fountainview will be sworn in as mayor April 18.
“It’s surreal to me. To think when I started this journey in 1997 that I would have reached this plateau is just unbelievable,” he said. “I look at all the great mayors that came before me and people I held in high regard, and to think that now it’s my turn to lead the city for the next three years, it’s just humbling.”
During his campaign this year, he positioned himself as the experienced candidate who can bring together different factions.
“We have a critical mass of issues. It’s going to take someone with institutional knowledge and the skill set to bring us through the issues at hand,” he said previously. “I don’t want to just be a mayor, I want to be the mayor of the people.”
On Tuesday night, he said his priorities include land-use issues and reviewing the city’s comprehensive development plan. He also wants city council to begin meeting more frequently in order to ensure that meetings are shorter and that it is easier for members of the public to make their voices heard.
“It’s a new day for Newark,” he said. “I think that we need to be considerate to those that come before us, certainly not have a meeting so long that public comment is at 9 p.m. I think that is so dissuasive of public input.”
In a prepared statement, Ciferni thanked supporters.
“Thank you to all of my campaign’s supporters, volunteers, and donors who gave their time and talents to get the word out,” she said. “I congratulate Mayor-Elect Clifton on his win and I look forward to working with him and council in the future.”
Farzad said in an interview that he enjoyed the campaign and is now “addicted” to local politics.
“Thank you to everyone who supported me,” Farzad said. “I’ll continue to stand for what we believe in.”
He congratulated Clifton on his victory.
“If I couldn’t vote for myself, I would have voted for Jerry,” he said. “He’ll do a great job.”
In a prepared statement, Guthrie said he will stay involved with the community and thanked residents for hearing him out.
“They always respectfully listened and allowed me to share my ideas. It really means a lot to me,” Guthrie said. “I was able to make a lot of lifelong connections & experience memories most people would never get to make at this age. Newark is a wonderful place and students/families/senior citizens should intertwine happily. I will keep encouraging students to meet their neighbors and creating connections as well.”
Turnout for the mayoral race was approximately 21 percent.