TRENTON – Sometimes it takes a conversation in Trenton – to get to Paterson.
“Jackson’s not running again,” a woman – a local resident – on a street corner said in reference to incumbent Mayor Eric Jackson, a scrap of conversation overheard in the vicinity of Governor Phil Murphy’s swearing-in ceremony.
But Paterson, to paraphrase American Hustle – Paterson’s “interesting.”
Here are some Silk City tidbits InsiderNJ gleaned from the overcoats roving in and out of the War Memorial, where Murphy placed his hand on the same Bible the late John F. Kennedy used, where JFK once joined the late Governor Richard Hughes on the campaign trail.
First, Kenyatta Stewart, the legal star in Newark City Hall, won’t run for mayor.
There was a nucleus of real support for Stewart, had he opted to throw his bowtie into the ring. But he has other opportunities, a source told InsiderNJ, so he’s not going for it, not now.
That leaves a cluster of hard-running candidates that includes Councilman Bill McKoy, Councilman Alex Mendez, Councilman Andre Sayegh, Councilman Mike Jackson (still not formally announced) and former Deputy Mayor Pedro Rodriguez.
Now, each of those contenders faces a significant question or series of questions.
Can Mendez and Rodriguez each muscle the other out to be the sole Latino proprietor of the Hispanic vote in a city where Latinos form the biggest part of the population?
Can McKoy solidify the African American vote? Can he keep Jackson out of the contest to that end, minimize the impact of someone like former Police Director Glen Brown, and pray that Mendez and Rodriguez ravage each other off the power pedestal?
Can Sayegh – twice a citywide candidate, first in 2010 and then again in 2014 – capitalize on the mistakes he made in past elections and snipe pieces of everyone else’s base, including in those African American wards where he was weak in the past?
A poll came back in the last few days showing Sayegh holding a lead 24-13 (with most undecided) over Mendez, but Mendez has a reputation as one of the most voracious Patersonian campaigners in recent memory.
Sayegh is said to be in talks with Paterson Democratic Committee Co-Chair Al Abdelaziz, a leader in the Palestinian community, about how the pair can repair past fissures and strengthen the 6th Ward. Indeed, Abdelaziz ran against Sayegh in 2016, coming up short ultimately but still making the councilman sweat. What Abdelaziz evidently wants in exchange for his support for Sayegh is the promise that win or lose the mayoral election this year, Sayegh won’t run again.
Those talks were ongoing, according to a source near the frontispiece of today’s festivities.
Never completely out of the conversation as a citywide source ever since putting up monster numbers as an at-large council candidate in 2010, Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly (D-35) is said to be staying out of the endorsement game at the moment.
Four years ago, he went all in with Sayegh.
But the party appears reluctant to engage – at least right now, as the major candidates jockey for position to replaced corruption-jailed former Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres.