Campaign Notebook

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PATERSON, NJ – A month ago, City Council President Anthony Davis may have felt a little crowded. After running unopposed in the 1st Ward in 2008, Davis faced the prospect of as many as seven opponents this year. That’s how many people had picked up nominated petitions.

Well, as of 1 pm on Friday, none of the others had turned in petitions and been certified as candidates by the city clerk’s office. For the time being, Davis again is unopposed. But that could change by 4:00 pm on Monday, the deadline for candidates to file petitions.

Here’s the breakdown of other folks who have filed petitions and were certified as candidates as of 1 pm on Friday:

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2nd Ward: Councilman Aslon Goow, Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman and Edwin Lozada. Sonia Torres, wife of former mayor Joey Torres, said she plans to bring her petitions to city hall on Monday.

3rd Ward: Councilman William McKoy and Schools Commissioner Alex Mendez.  Another schools commissioner, Kenneth Simmons, had picked up petitions but not yet returned them. Several political activists said they do not expect Simmons to run.

4th Ward: In a race where incumbent Vera Ames-Garnes is stepping down, three candidates are in the field: Mark Fischer, Wilkin Santana and Ruby Cotton.

5th Ward: Councilman Julio Tavarez and Luis Velez. Velez has been speaking out at city council meetings for more than a year, targeting Tavarez.

6th Ward: Councilman Andre Sayegh so far is unopposed.

At-large: In the battle for the seat vacated when Benjie Wimberly took a seat in the state Assembly, Frank Filippelli, Kenneth McDaniel and Flavio Rivera are running. Meanwhile, Schools Commissioner Pedro Rodriguez, who opted not to seek re-election to the Board of Education in order to run for city council, has not yet handed in his petitions.

For the next several months, in ways both blatant and subtle, campaign politics will dominate public discourse in Paterson.

In addition to the May 8 city council elections, Patersonians also will vote on April 17 for Board of Education candidates.  Six candidates are vying for three school seats. The contenders are Arleen Barcenas, incumbent Errol Kerr, Manuel Martinez, Joel Ramirez, Corey Teague, and Daniel Vergara of Dixon Avenue.

Paterson also will be involved in one of the country’s most competitive Congressional primary races – the Democratic battle between Reps. Bill Pascrell and Steven Rothman on June 5..

PatersonPress.com plans to provide its readers with issue-oriented stories about the various elections.

But politics being what they are, not all the politicking will be about policy. To augment its coverage of the issues in the campaign, PatersonPress.com will begin publishing an ongoing column called Campaign Notebook. This feature will take a look at some of the other aspects of the campaign, such as strategies, alliances, and accusations. In particular, PatersonPress.com will attempt to address various allegations made at public meetings.

Take, for example, the comments by Paterson gadfly Donald Lynch at the February 14 televised City Council meeting. Lynch took aim at 3rd Ward challenger, Mendez.

Lynch accused Mendez of handing out misleading business cards. The largest letters on the card, Lynch pointed out, say: “State of New Jersey Department of Education.”

“He doesn’t work for the state,’’ Lynch protested. “Why is he trying to make it look that way?’’

Mendez dismissed Lynch’s comments as “dirty politics,’’ insisting the activist was simply trying to undermine his popularity in the community. When asked about the cards, Mendez acknowledged they were something he had done himself and were not issued by Paterson Public Schools. He also pointed out that beneath the state seal and the larger letters proclaiming an affiliation with the state education department were fine-print that said, “Paterson Public Schools/Board of Education.’’

Mendez could have made the argument that his business cards simply reflected the fact that Paterson schools are state-controlled. But that would not have been a very popular position in a city where many people resent Trenton’s role in the school district.

Meanwhile, over in the 4th Ward, Santana last month send a letter to the county election board asking that two polling locations be changed. He maintains in his letter that there have been allegations of voter fraud at the Norman Cotton Senior complex on Rosa Parks Boulevard during the 2008 election. That was a race Santana lost by 400 votes to veteran councilwoman Vera Ames-Garnes. Santana also says one of the poll workers at the Cotton complex was campaigning while supposedly performing non-partisan poll duties.

Santana is asking that the election board only allow residents of the senior complex to vote there. He is suggesting the county board designate School 10 on Mercer Street as the new polling location and that the accused poll worker be assigned to work in a different ward this year on Election Day.

Santana also is trying to get the 4th Ward’s District 7 polling location changed. He maintains that conducting voting at Second Baptist Church on Carroll Street runs counter to the constitutional principle of separation of church and state. He is urging the board to move that polling site to one of the nearby public elementary schools.

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