PATERSON – Phil Murphy has Bon Jovi.
And Pedro Rodriguez has Fetty Wap.
Cross town, it was an older crowd on Sunday night, and while his rivals stood onstage at an Eastside Neighborhood Association debate to appeal to those impeccably attired and scrutinizing veterans, former Deputy Mayor Pedro Rodriguez attempted to capture the imagination of millennials as he hosted a youth empowerment event at his downtown headquarters.
The place was packed, the windows fogged over with activity.
Paterson native Fetty Wap, and many others, came out to endorse and support the candidate.
“We’re doing what other campaigns haven’t done, which is to appeal to the youth,” Rodriguez told InsiderNJ. “I have an actual plan for the youth. This event – it made an impact on people like Fetty Wap and Fat Boy and others. I was just campaigning right now downtown and a young guy saw me and went crazy. I’m really hoping that for the first time the youth find a mayor who empowers them.”
Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly (D-35) serves as recreation director for the city.
He hasn’t formally endorsed a mayoral candidate.
“He’s a well known and well liked guy, but he hasn’t been given the tools,” Rodriguez said. “The rec department resources have been cut. I’m the one who is talking about recreation. We’re going to make the biggest allocation the city’s ever seen to recreation. We’re going to do that by cutting wasteful spending. They went ahead and built a dog park instead of addressing youth needs.”
The candidate made no apologies for missing the eastside neighborhood event.
“This was more impactful for the youth,” said the candidate.
Singer Justina Valentine, and internet sensation Fat Boy SSE joined Fetty Wap to endorse and support Rodriguez’s candidacy for Mayor of Paterson. Fetty Wap said he believes in Pedro’s message of empowering the youth and making sure they are involved in the democratic process.
“I’m honored to receive these endorsements because I know the impact this will have in inspiring the youth to participate in politics,” Rodriguez said. “They need to know their voice has power. I will provide educational programs focusing on subjects such as coding, videography, and music, which will offer a pathway for our young men and women to become successful entrepreneurs like Fetty Wap.”
Fetty Wap, whose real name is Willie Maxwell II, said he’s fortunate to be in a position where he can educate the youth on the importance of getting involved in voting and politics in general.
“This event was intended to raise the stakes in our goal to get Pedro elected,” added Victoria Tahhan, a campaign staffer for the Rodriguez Campaign.
“This helped our campaign to reach everyone in Paterson, especially the younger voters who have historically disappointed when it has come to ballot box turnout rates and needed to become encouraged to make their voices count,” Tahhan said. “We were pleased with the turnout and reached our desired outcome of registering and inspiring younger voters.”
Others might object to Rodriguez claiming the corner market on youth, and indeed Ward 6 Councilman Andre Sayegh made his case for why young voters should embrace him.
“I think I have already done that,” he said. “We’ve built a playground and a opened pre-school in South Paterson. You can ask Benjie Wimberly. There is no one quite frankly who’s been a bigger supporter of recreation than I have. I’m having a soccer tournament and basketball tournament this weekend.”