PATERSON, N.J.- With a year until polls open for the Paterson mayoral race we take a look at the potential candidates so far, in what is shaping up to be another crowded race.
Jose “Joey” Torres, the incumbent Mayor of Paterson, announced his intention to run for re-election at a fundraiser last year. In March, Torres was charged with official misconduct which Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino described it as a case of "old school political corruption."
The council proceeded to have a vote of no confidence, however, the measure failed with Torres backers at the meeting expressing their support for the Mayor. Before his indictment, Torres proposed to the council a half-billion-dollar economic redevelopment plan for the city, in an attempt to revitalize the economy.
Recently, the Mayor launched several of town hall meetings in all six wards focused on many of the city’s top issues. Some residents believe that the town halls are Torres’s way to clean up his image before the election season, given the timing. With the recent controversies surrounding the Mayor, it is expected that he will face strong opposition.
Chauncey I. Brown III, former President of Paterson Public Schools Board of Education and current Vice-Municipal Chair of the Paterson Regular Republican Organization, announced his candidacy for Mayor earlier this year. Brown’s decision to run was encouraged by his close circle of family, friends, and supporters given the negative attention that the city has been receiving.
The candidate began a social media campaign for his bid to run by creating groups and pages on Facebook. With issues, Brown stated that education will his priority. “I would like to see Paterson schools return to emphasizing academics rather than attitudes and social agendas,” Brown added, “State tax laws should allow parents the freedom to choose whether their children will be homeschooled, attend a private or public school without being penalized. It is my goal to see Paterson schools once again setting the standard for education, not measuring up to it.”
In 2009, Brown was charged with corruption where he plead guilty to taking $13,000 in bribes from a firm seeking to do work in the Paterson School District. In response to his conviction, Brown said in a Paterson Times article, “Why should I be penalized for a mistake that I made 10 years ago? Everybody deserves a second chance.” According to his legal team, he is eligible to hold office because he is “grandfathered in”, despite an NJ statute that stated, “[anyone convicted of a crime involving their public office] shall be forever disqualified from holding any office or position of honor, trust or profit under this State or any of its administrative or political subdivisions.”
Brown wants to tackle the “tax burden” on Paterson residents and believes that residents should not “survive” but “prosper.”
Domingo “Alex” Mendez, Councilman At-Large, announced his intention to run for mayor on a Dominican television station and also told supporters in April in a closed setting. Although having not made a formal announcement, Mendez has been seen at many functions trying gather supporters for his run. The At-Large Councilman cited his aspirations to run for mayor after becoming the largest voter getter in his 2014 council run.
The Patersonian was told by an anonymous democratic operative, that Mendez will most likely receive backing from the Democratic Party since he is considered to be a “fresh face” candidate with strong support from the Latin community.
Facing contention for support in the hispanic community (particularly the Dominican community) the councilman has been seen working with another Mayoral candidate, Pedro Rodriguez. In March, Mendez voted against the vote of no confidence against Torres, which some may speculate is a way for Mendez to take some of Torres’s supporters if Torres is to go to jail.
Mendez has said that he, “ will be the mayor for the entire city not for one group.”
Pedro Rodriguez, former Deputy Mayor of Paterson under Torres, said that he plans on running for mayor. Although never making a formal announcement, Rodriguez’s decision to step down as Deputy Mayor and his tension with Torres are signs that indicate he will run.
However, the former Deputy Mayor claimed that he stepped down citing that he disagreed with Torres on some issue and no longer felt “comfortable” to represent him anymore. Torres disagreed with Rodriguez’s claims and believes that he wants to take his job as mayor. When speaking to Reporte Hispano, Rodriguez admitted, “Yes it is true. I have no reason to hide it, I want to be mayor of Paterson.”
Manny Martinez, Paterson Public Schools Board of Education Commissioner, announced in an Op-Ed that he will create an Exploratory Committee for a possible campaign for mayor. Martinez is joining a large pool of candidates while also being one of the four potential candidates seeking support in Paterson’s strong Hispanic voting bloc.
In his Op-Ed, Martinez stated, “We are, unfortunately, all too aware of the polarizing nature of the local political landscape, and it’s exceedingly clear that the next Mayor must be someone who can bridge the divide between different groups. I am also aware that this next election is without question one that represents a tipping point for our city.”
In response to his possible run for mayor, Corey Teague, a community activist, is upset that in less than 90 days after being sworn to a two-year term on the Paterson BOE, Martinez announces that he might seek another office. Teague pointed out that Martinez unseated a long time education activist in Kerr, to only seek another office months later.
Glenn Brown, former Director of Public Safety in Paterson, announced earlier this month that he is setting up an exploratory committee for a possible run for mayor. According to his announcement, “I feel compelled to explore this possibility due to the grave concerns about the level of corruption and other major issues facing the city of Paterson.” Brown was Director of Public Safety under Torres until 2014, when Jerry Speziale took over. Currently, Brown is the Director of Security at Passaic County Community College.
Lilsa Mimms, Paterson Public Schools Board of Education Commissioner, indicated through a post on Facebook that she might consider a bid to run. Mimms, through Facebook, gave her followers an idea of a program she would implement called, “Off the Streets and Get to Work.”
According to her post, it is a program that would have the city government work with, “business owners, executives, directors, managers developers, investors and anyone with hiring ability to identify what job opportunities can be made available for Paterson residents.” Mimms was elected to her first term on the Paterson BOE in 2014. In 2016, she ran a tough campaign against Council President William McKoy in the Third Ward but ultimately lost.
Jeff Jones, former Mayor of Paterson, submitted an NJ ELEC (Election Law Enforcement Code) filing back in November of last year to run for mayor in the 2018 election. Jones has not made an official announcement of his intentions to run for mayor. Earlier last year, Jones ran against Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ 9th) in the Democratic Primary for Congress but withdrawn after the Passaic County Democratic Party challenged 79 of his petition.
In 2010, Jones ran against and beat Torres for mayor, but lost to Torres in 2014 after a troubling four years, including his failure to respond to many of the cities’ issues and the overtime pay scandal from Tropical Storm Irene.
Andre Sayegh, Sixth Ward Councilman, also hasn’t announced his candidacy for mayor, but there are many rumors indicating that he is gearing up for a third run. In recent months, Sayegh has started a Facebook campaign where he posts videos of either himself or himself with his family promoting Paterson restaurants and touting the economic boom in his sixth ward.
With those videos, some residents believe that it is his way to show the “mayoral” side of him and highlight the progress his ward is making in economic development. Sayegh is known to be a fierce critic of Torres and has run against him for mayor twice since 2010. During his re-election bid in 2016, Sayegh faced challenge from newcomer Al Abdelaziz, who was backed by Torres. Sayegh ultimately defeated Abdelaziz, which delivered a loss to the mayor.
Given Torres’s recent corruption charges, Sayegh may use that as part of his campaign message. In the vote of no confidence from last March, Sayegh was one of the two councilmembers who voted for the vote of no confidence against Torres. In his last run for mayor in 2014, Sayegh received backing from the Democratic Party as Congressman Bill Pascrell, who was the former mayor of Paterson in the 1990s, and State Democratic Chairman John Currie supported Sayegh.
Sayegh is also in contention with Mendez in trying to get the Democratic Party’s backing. According to the same anonymous Democratic operative above, there is coordination indicating that Sayegh is working with NJ Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy to help Paterson come out for the 2017 governor's race and it is expected that Murphy will back Sayegh if he runs for mayor.
William McKoy, Third Ward Councilman and Council President, has not announced his plans to run for mayor, but there is speculation that he might run in 2018. McKoy has been on the council since 2000 and was elected Council President in 2015. In his victory in 2016, he had 300 vote difference to his second place rival, Flavio Rivera.
Speculation for his run came about when he had a fundraiser right after his election. In light of Torres’s charges by the State Attorney General, McKoy pushed the council to have a vote of no confidence against Torres, which he and Sayegh were the only two who voted on that measure.
Michael Jackson, First Ward Councilman, is one of the rumored potential candidates to run for mayor. Jackson would be one of the four people on the council trying to move his office into the Second Floor of City Hall. Elected during a special election in 2015, Jackson was served an unexpired term from former Councilman Anthony Davis. Martinez came in second in Jackson’s victory by 24 points. Jackson has a reputation for being publicly critical of the council for any imperative decision that is being made.