PATERSON, NJ – Standing in the Passaic County administration building Tuesday afternoon, 1st Ward Councilman Anthony Davis smiled and wiped some make-believe moisture off his brow.
“Phew,’’ Davis said. “I’m done sweating.’’
County election officials had just read off the totals for provisional votes in the city election and Davis’ 48-vote lead in his race against Pedro Rodriguez had pretty much stayed intact. Rodriguez picked up 25 extra votes, Davis 23 and Luis Ona one.
Rodriguez needed to get all 49 votes to change the result. None of the other races was close enough to be altered by the provisional ballots, which are votes cast on Election Day by people whose names were not listed on the regular voting rolls for various reasons, including folks who recently moved without updating their records.
“Now it’s time for Paterson business,’’ Davis said. “I’m extending an olive branch to my opponents.’’
Davis, who has served almost 10 years as a city councilman, blamed the close outcome on confusion among the electorate, both in terms of the voting process as well as about the issues at stake. Davis compared Rodriguez to a “used car salesman” who tried to blame the incumbent councilman for the 29-percent tax increase endured by Patersonians in 2011. The tax increase, Davis said, had been the mayor’s responsibility.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez asserted that there had been “many irregularities” on Election Day and said he might take legal action. For example, Rodriguez said, his poll workers in nine districts were not allowed to watch the tallies be compiled from the voting machines. Also, Rodriguez said, there was one instance in which Davis was allowed to help someone vote and another case in which the councilman knew which way someone voted.
“Right now, we’re exploring all our options to see how this will end up,’’ said Rodriguez said.
The 2nd Ward result also may be heading to court. Incumbent Aslon Goow has asserted that victorious challenger Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman did not meet the city charter’s residency requirement which says a candidate must live in Paterson for a year before the election. Goow said on Monday that he was working on a legal challenge.
In the 3rd Ward, the city’s other close race, the 35 provisional ballots counted on Tuesday were not enough to erase the 99-vote advantage that incumbent William McKoy enjoyed over school board member Alex Mendez.
Here’s a breakdown of the provision tally and how they affected the final numbers:
At-Large: Winner Kenneth McDaniel received 118 provisional votes to boost his total to 4,564. Flavio Rivera added 127 provision votes to climb to 3,557 and Frank Filippelli added 46 provisions to reach 1,971.
Davis finished with 1,107, Rodriguez with 1,061 and Ona 182.
Akhtaruzzaman had 32 provisionals to finish with 1,125. Goow had 15 provisions for 653, Sonia Torres 10 provisions for 532, Joseph Atallo five provisions for 295 and Edwin Lozada four provisional for 124.
McKoy garnered eight provisional to finish with 1,480, while Mendez added 27 to end up with 1,400.
Winner Ruby Cotton got 20 provisions to finish with 919, Mark Fischer whose 15 provisionals raised his total to 498 and Wilkin Santana whose seven provisions gave him 335.
5th Ward 5
Victorious incumbent Julio Tavarez had 40 provisionals to end up with 950, while Luis Velez had 25 provisions to end with 612.
Incumbent winner Andre Sayegh padded his lead with 23 provisionals for a total of 1,397, while his challengers got four provisional each, putting Eliecer Montoya at 375 and Maria Rivas at 254.
In an interview with PatersonPress.com, Mayor Jeffery Jones had suggested that some of the close margins could be seen as the voters sending a message to incumbents. But Davis vehemently disagreed with that assessment. "The mayor needs to watch his back,'' Davis said.