PATERSON, NJ – Kenneth McDaniel’s endorsement by the Dominican Political Representation (DOPOR) group continues to be a target of his opponents in the race for the At-Large City Council seat.
Back in March, McDaniel became the first African-American to receive the group’s endorsement, and he embraced their support as an opportunity to promote “racial harmony in our troubled city.’’
But some of McDaniel’s supporters were not too happy when he accepted DOPOR’s backing, evidence of the lingering cultural rivalries that color city politics. During the recent city-sponsored debates, McDaniel’s opponents – Frank Filippelli and Flavio River – questioned the circumstances under which he received the endorsement.
“No way did I seek any endorsement,’’ McDaniel said during the debate. But Tomas Gomez, DOPOR’s head of political affairs, said his group only endorses candidates who seek its support. “He asked for a meeting with us,’’ Gomez said of McDaniel.
Rivera said McDaniel has been dishonest in trying to distance himself from the DOPR endorsement. “If you made a decision, you have to stand by it,’’ Rivera said. “You have to be honest with the people about it.’’
But McDaniel said he is being honest. He asserted that a member of DOPOR approached him and urged him to seek the group’s backing. “I was told the organization wanted to endorse me,’’ McDaniel said. “They initiated it. I didn’t.’’
Filippelli and Rivera both have said they did not seek DOPOR’s support.
During the debate, Rivera also questioned McDaniel’s integrity, saying he was accepting DOPOR’s endorsement after previously alleging that the group stole the 2010 election from him. McDaniel called Rivera’s question “flawed,’’ asserting that he never accused DOPRA members of any wrongdoing.
Back in 2010, McDaniel apparently had won an at-large seat in the city election until a recount took into account absentee ballots that had been found in a box at the county election offices. The extra votes made Rigo Rodriguez the winner. In December 2010, the Attorney General Office arrested Rodriguez, his wife, and more than 12 supporters on charges of election fraud. Several of the defendants have entered a pretrial probationary program, but the charges against Rodriguez are still pending.
McDaniel asserted that Rivera’s question unfairly implicated DOPR in the election fraud. “That’s an accusation that should be dealt with,’’ he said.
When told of McDaniel’s objections, Rivera’s response was that DOPOR members were family members of some of the defendants in the election fraud case.
McDaniel made it clear he was angry and frustrated that questions were still arising involving the DOPOR endorsement. “It’s being blown way out of proportion,’’ he said. “Certain people can’t handle people coming together.’’