PATERSON, NJ – Confirming widespread speculation among Patersionians, Joey Torres said in an interview with PatersonPress.com on Tuesday that he would run for mayor in 2014.
After eight years in the job, Torres lost the 2010 mayoral race to Jeffrey Jones by 598 votes, despite spending more than $1 million on his campaign. Jones, who spent $65,000 on the race, had 43 percent of the vote, while Torres had 40 percent.
“I don’t think the percentage I lost by was so significant,’’ Torres said, explaining why he will run again.
Moreover, Torres said the problems Paterson endured during the Jones administration, including a 29-percent tax increase in 2011, have prompted residents to urge him to run again. “I balanced my budget,’’ said Torres. “Unfortunately, when Jeff came in he didn’t know how to do that. He’s not a businessman. He knows how to play golf and he knows how to lecture.’’
Jones and his supporters have blamed the massive 2011 tax hike on problems left behind by Torres. “He can do what he wants,’’ Jones said when asked for his reaction to Torres’ political plans. “He should run and run hard. He can start by explaining the $70 million deficit he left behind, or why he hired 200 police officers we couldn’t afford without telling anybody.’’
Criticism of Torres’ performance as mayor comes from more people than just Jones’ allies. “Joey Torres is officially saying he will run for mayor? What a shame,’’ said Councilman Aslon Goow. “After the mess he left, he’s trying to capitalize on Jeff Jones’ failure and is hoping the people will not remember all the damage he did to Paterson."
Goow had considered running for mayor, but after losing the 2nd Ward council election on May 8, he said he currently is focusing on mounting legal challenge to try to overturn that outcome. There has also been talk that Rigo Rodriguez, the councilman who remains a target of a state voter fraud investigation, will run. Others have speculated that Rep. Bill Pascrell will enter the mayor race if he loses the June congressional primary to Steve Rothman.
Some people also have suggested that Councilman Kenneth Morris, whose criticism of the Jones administration has earned him the title of “anti-mayor” among Jones supporters, would seek the mayor’s job. Morris said he currently has “no interest in running.’’ When asked about Torres’ candidacy, Morris said, “I guess he feels he can do something different than what’s being done now.’’
The third candidate in the 2010 elecion, 6th Ward Councilman Andre Sayegh, said he has not yet thought about what he will do in 2014 because his attention has been focused on the May 8 council campaign. Sayegh finished with 16 percent of the votes in the last mayoral election. Some city political insiders say his presence in the race allowed Jones to win by drawing votes away from Torres.
Jones said he will be waiting for all comers. “I ain’t going no where,’’ he asserted emphatically when asked if he would run in 2014.
In criticizing Torres' performance, Jones also said he believed his predecessor had privately agreed to give a $54 million bond guarantee to an organization connected to St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center to build a hotel near the hospital. “If that’s the type of business he’s talking about, I look forward to his running in 2014,’’ Jones said of Torres.
After losing the 2010 election, Torres took the six-figure job of business administrator in Jackson Township in Ocean County. He said that position has given him a new level of experience to serve Paterson. Torres said he planned to form an official campaign exploratory committee in January.
Torres said his administration launched numerous projects that have improved Paterson, including development along the Route 20 corridor, the demolition and replacement of the notorious Alabama Avenue housing projects, and the construction of the Center City Mall.
“My record speaks for itself,’’ Torres said.