Councilman James Horning Jr. is not planning to seek a second term representing District 1, he announced Monday night.
“I believe our city is poised to catch lightning in a bottle,” Horning said, choking up as he spoke. “The staff is excellent, we have a great council and UD administration. I think the players we have are some of the best we’ve had. I really would love to continue, but we have the people to put us on a great course for years to come.”
In an interview, he explained that he needs to take time to address some challenges in his personal life, citing family circumstances and changes to his job due to the pandemic.
“I had been waiting to get involved in public service until a stable time, and it just so happened I picked one of the most unstable times for the world,” Horning said.
He later added that it’s possible he could change his mind and run, but he wanted to alert his constituents that he is not currently planning to run in order to give other people time to consider a bid for the seat.
A lawyer from Nottingham Green, Horning was elected in 2019, defeating four-term incumbent Mark Morehead. He has also served as deputy mayor since August.
He said he is most proud of his efforts to increase communication to constituents, improve the relationship between the city and the university, tackle flooding issues in Cherry Hill and defeat CSX’s proposal to close the Casho Mill Road underpass.
Horning is the second incumbent to announce he will step down at the end of his term in April. Last summer, two-term District 4 Councilman Chris Hamilton said he does not plan to seek re-election.
Hamilton was first elected in 2017, when he defeated incumbent Marge Hadden. He ran unopposed two years ago.
“For me, I’ve got to get back to my life. I went into this full time and I had the time to do it full time,” Hamilton said in an interview this week. “But life has gotten in the way, with my family and my own goals. I don’t feel that at this particular time I can continue.”
He said he ran for office four years ago to “change the culture” at city hall and believes that has been accomplished, noting that Newark has a new city manager and several new top officials, and communication and transparency has improved.
“From a city standpoint, we’re past that crisis from before,” Hamilton said. “The new management has left me with a sense that they can run things well, and they have the right direction.”
The other seat up for re-election in April is District 2. Incumbent Sharon Hughes, who won a two-person race to replace Jerry Clifton when he became mayor in 2019, said Tuesday that she plans to seek a second term.
“It’s about two years, I think, before you grow your legs,” Hughes said, referring to the learning curve new council members face. “That’s one of the reasons why I plan to run again, because I feel like I owe them that knowledge that I’ve gained. I need to bring it to council and be productive in any way I can.”
If re-elected, she plans to focus on finding ways the city can help Newark’s homeless and other vulnerable citizens, citing the large amount of need exacerbated by the pandemic.
The decision by Horning and Hamilton not to run – one year after longtime Councilman Stu Markham and Councilwoman Jen Wallace retired – means the new council will be the most inexperienced in recent memory.
Besides Mayor Jerry Clifton, who has been in Newark government for more than two decades, the most senior council member will be Jason Lawhorn, who is in his third year. Hughes is in her second year, and Jay Bancroft and Travis McDermott are both in their first year.
Candidates have until Feb. 8 to file to run in the April 14 municipal election. In order to be eligible to run, a potential candidate must be a registered voter, reside in the district he or she is seeking to represent, have lived in the city for at least one year and submit a nominating petition signed by 10 qualified voters in the district.
District 1 encompasses the western part of the city, including Nottingham Green, Nottingham Manor, Oaklands, Cherry Hill, Timber Creek, Hunting Hills, Country Hills, Valley Stream, Briarcreek, Pheasant Run, Christine Manor and surrounding areas.
District 2 encompasses the eastern part of the city, including Catalina Gardens, Yorkshire Woods, Cannons Gate, the Village of Fountainview, White Chapel, Lumbrook, Prestwick Farms, Stafford, Laura’s Glen, George Read Village, the Washington House, part of Main Street and surrounding areas.
District 4 encompasses the central part of the city, including Old Newark, part of Main Street, part of South Main Street, Cherry Hill Manor, Sutton Place, Blair Village, Casho Mill Station and surrounding areas.