11/21/2012 12:20 pm ET

Cory Booker City Council Meeting Appearance Sparks Mayhem (VIDEO)

Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker sparked mayhem at a city council meeting Tuesday night when he tried to fill a vacant seat during a controversial vote.

"In the absence of a quorum, I have an obligation to sit in," Booker said, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.

Attendees of the meeting shouted and rushed the council stage when Booker appeared to cast the deciding vote over who would be the successor for Rep. Donald Payne. Police responded to the frenzy with pepper-spray.

According to the Star-Ledger, Booker's chief-of-staff planned the maneuver to prevent the appointment of "John Sharpe James, an avowed Booker opponent... Butler had the mayor at the ready in case of a tie or if there was no quorum":

After weeks of jockeying for Rep. Donald Payne’s successor, Booker made an unprecedented personal appearance to cast the deciding vote with his council allies for Shanique Davis Speight, a longtime ally of power broker Stephen Adubato, over the angry objections of residents.


The packed city council chamber was gearing up for a showdown over the appointment as well known figures including former Mayor Sharpe James, Amiri and Amina Baraka, former Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins and former Council President Donald Bradley came to back their choices.

Councilman Ras Baraka attempted to speak but was not recognized by Councilman Anibal Ramos, who was serving as acting president. Instead Ramos proceeded with the nomination of Speight.

Baraka, Councilwoman Mildred Crump, and Councilman Darrin Sharif walked off the dais in protest, and Booker came in cast the decisive vote, as laid out in state statute.

The move was planned by Booker’s chief-of-staff, Modia Butler, to scuttle the appointment of James’ son John Sharpe James, an avowed Booker opponent, in favor of Speight. Butler had the mayor at the ready in case of a tie or if there was no quorum.

Councilman Darrin Sharif called the fiasco an "out of body experience."

"The mayor, who goes all around the country to talk about democracy... literally in the back of the room, hiding in the shadows," Sharif said.

Booker did act as an Obama surrogate throughout the 2012 campaign, once causing a stir when he criticized an Obama campaign ad. The usually-popular mayor has hinted that he may consider a gubernatorial run, challenging current Governor Chris Christie (R).

(h/t Newark Star-Ledger)



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