PATERSON, NJ – Sonia Torres may end up the big winner in the legal battle between Aslon Goow and Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman.
With all Election Night votes counted, Torres – the wife of Paterson’s former mayor – stood atop the field of five candidates in the special election for Paterson’s vacant 2nd Ward City Council seat.
Unofficial returns showed Torres with 1,239 votes, followed by Aslon Goow with 1,097, Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman with 993, Maidul Islam with 515 and Zalal Uddin with 183.
Those numbers do not include absentee, provisional and flood emergency ballots, which may not be fully counted for days. There were thousands of provisional ballots issued citywide, according to the clerk's office. It's not clear how many of them were in the 2nd Ward.
The special election became necessary after Goow, who had been a councilman for 12 years before he lost in May, won a court ruling that nullified Akhtaruzzaman’s victory on the grounds that his voter registration was deemed invalid.
During the trial and afterwards, the rivalry between the Goow and Akhtaruzzaman camps grew more and more fierce and bitter. Goow often called Akhtaruzzaman a liar and on Election Night Akhtaruzzaman called Goow a crybaby.
Akhtaruzzaman’s victory in May was the first time a Bengali-American had been elected to public office in North Jersey and the emergence of two other Bengali candidates in the special election seemed to hurt his campaign by siphoning off votes from that community.
Goow finished second in that contest, as well, while Torres was third.
At each of their election headquarters on Tuesday night, Goow and Akhtaruzzaman closely monitored the vote totals being reported by their campaign workers. In contrast, Torres seemed caught off guard Tuesday night by her strong showing. "Oh really, that's news to me,'' she said when told by PatersonPress.com that she was leading the field. Torres had gathered with a handful of close supporters at Cortina's Ristorante, an upscale fine dining establishment on Berkshire Avenue.
Torres said she was thankful to her backers and added that she had a "great cheerleader" in her husband, former mayor Jose "Joey" Torres. She pointed out that her husband had been either mayor or councilman for 20 of the 25 years of their marriage, saying her experience working with him on various projects shaped her desire to run for office.
Torres said 51 percent of Patersonians are women and she asserted that those women deserved a stronger voice in city government. During the campaign, Torres also said the city needed greater cooperation among officials and less divisiveness.
During an interview on Tuesday, Goow criticized Torres’ candidacy, saying she was running for council only to enhance her husband’s chances at winning the 2014 mayoral election. Jose “Joey” Torres has been mayor for eight years before he was ousted by Jeffrey Jones in 2010 and Torres has said he plans to seek the mayor’s job again in two years. Goow himself has been talking about running for mayor in 2014.