Councilman Al Abdelaziz.
It’s been a long road towards that title for the young 6th Ward community leader, and yet at the same time, he’s come a long way over a short duration – just turned 30 and already a powerful player.
He got his start as a Passaic County Democratic organizer, and rose through the ranks, carefully cultivating relationships along the way, becoming the co-chair of Paterson’s Democratic Party and close confidante (one of the youngest, too) of NJSDC Chairman and PCDO Chairman Currie.
By 2014, he was a close ally of then-Councilman Andre Sayegh, who was making his second go-round for mayor, after an attempt in 2010, and once again battling Jeff Jones and Joey Torres – though this time with the roles switched. In 2010, Jones was the insurgent and Torres was the incumbent. In 2014, Jones was the incumbent, with Torres seeking a comeback. It was a messy affair, with 8 candidates nibbling at the bases of the two main battle contestants – Torres and Sayegh. Abdelaziz was at Sayegh’s side for all of it. Of course, Torres emerged victorious in that hard-fought campaign of 2014.
Come 2017, as the mayoral election cycle began its slow grind into motion, Torres was dogged by a corruption scandal that resulted in….well, we know how the rest of it goes. And in 2018, Sayegh finally clinched the mayoral win, his third make-it-or-break-it go. Abdelaziz was at his side, a close ally once again who helped deliver a solid 6th Ward win for Sayegh, who bested closest competitor Alex Mendez by a 4,000 vote margin.
Sure, there was a detour for the two 6th Warders. In 2016, Abdelaziz had challenged Sayegh for the council seat, with the public and vocal support of Torres. In a much-watched race, Abdelaziz scored one of the highest vote totals in the city, around 1,200. Sayegh, though, clinched 1,600 – a personal best in a ward race – for the win.
But, now, that was history, a minor blip in an otherwise mutually-beneficial alliance.
With Sayegh heading into the mayor’s office in July, that soon-to-be vacant 6th Ward council seat would need to be filled, and Abdelaziz was Sayegh’s natural successor. He was appointed to the seat and in gear for a November special election.
And so he opened his campaign headquarters Saturday afternoon, where around 150 people gathered at the Buffalo Ave storefront to hear from the candidate. Supporters, Paterson leaders, and Democratic Party faithful came out for him, including Sayegh. Council President Davila was there. BOE members Manny Martinez and Joel Ramirez were there. Prospect Park Mayor Mohammed Khairullah was in the room. PCDC Vice Chair Tanis was, too.
See TAPinto Paterson’s video interview with Abdelaziz at the kick-off.
At a house party organized by Hispanos Unidos after the grand opening, Abdelaziz (sporting a pair of Governor Murphy-inspired Allbirds) and Sayegh took turns at the microphone, rallying the crowd. They mentioned the entire county Democratic slate of candidates – from Rep. Pascrell to the clerk candidate and freeholders – but the focus today was undeniably local.
If motivation was on anyone’s side, at least by today’s optics, it’s Abdelaziz. He’s got a challenger, Jeyss Abreu, who according a Paterson Times article is ‘largely unknown’, and the race is ‘ being viewed as a proxy fight between Sayegh and Mendez’.
Council President Maritza Davila, an Abdelaziz ally, recounted a story that a day or two before, someone came up to her and said ‘you should be ashamed for not supporting the Latino candidate’. Davila responded that she’s proud to be Latina, and proud to support her ‘brother from another mother’ Abdelaziz, to the crowd’s approval.
When the speeches ended, the partying began. Sayegh, who just a little while earlier sang Abdelaziz’s praises, began to sing a different tune.
Cajoled into karoake, he belted out his own Patersonified version of Sinatra’s ‘New York, New York’ – changing the lyrics ‘Paterson, Paterson’, before heading into renditions of ‘Sweet Caroline’, ‘Celebrate’, and ‘Hotel California’.
For those at the kickoff and the house party, everything’s in-tune heading into November in the 6th Ward.
- Alex Mendez
- Andre Sayegh
- Barbara Tanis
- Bill Pascrell
- Bob Menendez
- Hispanos Unidos
- Jeff Jones
- Jeyss Abreu
- Joel Ramirez
- Joey Torres
- John Currie
- Manny Martinez
- Maritza Davila
- Miguel Diaz
- Mohammed Khairullah
- NJ Democrats
- Passaic County Democrats
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