PATERSON, NJ - Fireworks filled the sky over the Second Ward Tuesday night as dozens of local residents joined together to celebrate the swearing in of Councilman Shahin Khalique. Khalique was returned to the city’s legislative body after a do-over election was ordered by a judge when May’s contest ended in a tie.
After weeks of counting it was verified earlier this week that Khalique bested his four opponents with a total of 2,762 votes, 100 more than his political rival Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman who once held the position.
Signaling that an, at times, contentious relationship with the Paterson City Council could get even more prickly for Mayor Andre Sayegh, Khalique was joined by First Ward Councilman Mike Jackson, who served as emcee of the ceremony, and Third Ward Councilman Alex Mendez who won his own bruising battle against longtime incumbent William “Bill” McKoy.
Kicking off the event Jackson said that by selecting Khalique the voters of the Second Ward “returned a fighter” to the body and indicated that he will no longer be alone in opposition to Sayegh backed initiatives, a position he has often found himself in.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m beating a drum and no one is hearing,” Jackson said. “Like I am fighting alone.”
Just a day removed from his own swearing in Mendez assured the crowd that Khalique will “be a rubber stamp for nobody.”
“He cares about the people of Paterson, about the families.”
Taking his spot behind the podium when asked was Gilman Choudhury, selected in July to serve in the position in an interim basis. Choudhury, who held true to his commitment not to seek the seat in the election, a decision he previously likened to that of Roman statesman Cincinnatus, who, despite having the opportunity to serve in the highest position overseeing the Empire, did so for only as long as necessary to ensure a peaceful transition to a new leader, used his time to call for “collaboration.”
“Let us all come together for the people,” he said in brief remarks.
After taking the oath from Chief Municipal Judge John Abdelhadi, a visibly emotional Khalique started his comments by thanking his family, friends, and the all the residents he will serve in office, promising not to forget that “it is the voters that put us here and it is the voters that can take us out.”
“I accept my obligation,” he said.
Without offering specifics Khalique shared his view that “the shenanigans did not work” in efforts to take him out of the seat and that he was prepared to deliver “cooperation, civility, and performance, not just promises.”
Known more for his cerebral approach to legislating than vocal, Khalique vowed that he would not support any more tax increases or raises to those he considered politically connected. “Enough is enough.”
Asked to comment on whether the nature of the election, or perceived rivalries, would make it difficult to for him to work or find common ground with either Sayegh or his colleagues on the council Khalique offered without hesitation “if it’s good for the people of Paterson I’m all for it. I’m open to anything.”
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