PATERSON – The late fight for turf between Alex Mendez and Pedro Rodriguez in Silk City’s Latino community comes as the Rodriguez Campaign, running a robust game built on a season’s worth of small gains, tries to cut into the Dominican base that a now headline-wobbled Mendez built over the course of nearly a decade in elected office.
Rodriguez has raised $221,000 toward his mayoral bid, right behind rival Ward 6 Councilman Andre Sayegh, who leads the six-candidate mayoral field on the hard fundraising side with $246K. It can be argued – even strenuously – that Rodriguez’s campaign also bruises Sayegh, whose citywide strategy depends on significant support from the African American community. This past Saturday, fliers featuring international rapper sensation Fetty Wap’s endorsement of Rodriguez blanketed the city, an African American counterweight to the 6th Ward Councilman Sayegh, who last week landed the support of multiple African American pastors.
Saygh wants the votes of the elders telling their Fetty Wap fan kids to spend more time in church.
What does Wap want?
“I want Pedro to make a new Paterson and I wanna be a part of it,” reads his quote on the wide-ranging Rodriguez flier.
But finally it’s the Mendez camp that now – in the 11th hour – is alert to the well-funded Rodriguez, an engineer by trade and focused political tactician, who helped guide the since-disgraced Jose “Joey” Torres to victory citywide in 2014.
The signs on almost every major corner of the city tell part of a story; Sayegh, Mendez, Rodriguez.
Mendez v. Sayegh provides the perfect Trump (galvanized base) v. Clinton (alliances across broad swathes of political ground) local-level analogy, but Rodriguez adds an X Factor to the contest. If the former deputy mayor threatens to peel some votes away from Sayegh (his alliance with former Councilman Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman of the Bengali community – a 2014 Sayegh ally – represents another penetration point), Rodriguez more pointedly has put some backers of Mendez – resistant early to the impact of his mechanical movements – in a late cold sweat.
They fear the accumulation of negative stories around Mendez, including the candidate’s failure to file ELEC reports.
Even as his man skirts the rules, one Mendez backer howled at an April filing by Rodriguez, meticulously completed, which shows a political consultant with ties to Donald Trump operative Roger Stone and former Bergen County Democratic Organization Chairman Joe Ferriero receiving more than $10,000 from the Paterson mayoral candidate.
A former Teaneck councilman and former assistant executive director of the Bergen County Improvement Authority, Elnatan Rudolph operates out of JHSM Downing Street, destination of the check (and some change) issued by the Rodriguez Campaign.
Rudolph was happy to talk about the campaign.
“I’ve known Pedro for a long time,” he told InsiderNJ. “He’s a good guy, a good man, who wants to do the right thing for Paterson, and I appreciate his ground organizing skills, which are far superior to anyone’s. He’s on the ground. I do the 50k ft. view – the direct mail, the TV ad, the robocalls.”
The operative identified the Sayegh Campaign as organized, with all the requisite strong points on the field side.
“I believe the Democratic Party has brought in all the big guns and made this race a huge priority,” Rudolph said. “It was very clear they want Andre Sayegh from the beginning. He’s run before and he lost.”
He rattled off the names of heavy hitters on Team Sayegh, among them the Pascrells, Brendan Gill, and Dave Parano.
As for the at-large councilman, “Mendez?” Rudolph said, “Lord only knows how he’s paying for a single client. If he gets elected, what do we do, what does Paterson do? He will be worse off than Joey Torres. He has no money. How is he paying for his signs and his literature? All his people are getting paid. That’s worrisome. Pedro, on the other hand, is salt of the earth, really a good guy.”
Street buzz among Mendez allies puts Ferriero – through Rudolph – in City Hall if Rodriguez gets elected.
The operative laughed it off.
“Wherever I go, I get attackd as a bogie man attached to Roger Stone and Joe Ferriero,” he said. “Look, I have worked at this point on 1,000 campaigns. I lost my reelection as a Teaneck councilman because of the name Joe Ferriero. I am involved in over 120 campaigns having nothing to do with Joe Ferriero. Whoever says that is desperate. You don’t attack someone who you don’t think means anything.”
He added that he was happy to know both Stone and Ferriero.
“They’re worried,” he added of the Mendez camp. “A month ago they would never have even mentioned Pedro. But while Mendez has not expanded his base, and is running a Donald Trump-style campaign, Pedro has expanded his, with the Fetty Wap endorsement, and by focusing on safety and security and fighting corruption.”
As for the Sayegh ground game a day before Election Day, Rudolph added, “Dave Parano is one of the best in the business, and you can quote me on that.”
The incision into the more-discussed citywide rivalry – Mendez v. Sayegh – prompted Sayegh at the city’s final debate to deny any collision between himself and Rodriguez, or at least the most discussed reward option if Rodriguez does indeed chew substantially into Mendez.
“I’m not appointing you as business administrator when I am elected mayor,” he told Rodriguez to his face, nullifying rumors about a swap for Rodriguez in for the city’s sitting BA, state Senator Nellie Pou (D-35).
But late, Rodriguez looks committed to his own citywide hook, if not tomorrow if he fails to get past Mendez and Sayegh – in the future.
Up against two scientific campaigns, Mendez allies trust their candidate’s long-nursed base.
“He’s a 24-7 guy,” At-Large Councilwoman Maritza Davila (pictured above) said of her council colleague running for mayor. “You see him all the time, not just campaign time, and when you look at the field of candidates running, that’s the kind of person you want.”
The Flier Fiasco Part II
The wretched and hateful flier that appeared in mailboxes on Sunday morning upchucked a new round of accusations.
A former ally of jailed ex-mayor Jose “Joey” Torres on Sunday evening denied that he was the person who distributed the homophobic and racist flier in the boxes of Paterson voters last night.
Jesus Castro, who works as a commissioner for the city’s Planning and Zoning Department, was once a candidate for the local School Board and a mayor’s rep at Planning Board meetings, said he plans to sue when he finds who it is who distributed the picture of a man who resembles him allegedly shoving into a resident’s mailbox the hate-filled flier.
“It’s not me,” said Jesus Castro.
“I don’t have the time,” he added. “In a city of 140,000 people, that’s someone with money who paid to print it and for folks to put it out there.
“I happened to be at the hospital last night,” Castro added.
He reiterated that the man in the picture isn’t him, but added that he did not see a time stamp on the photo and urged whomever it was who initially made the connection to provide one immediately.
Excoriating Blacks, gays, Arabs and LAtinos, the hateful flier urges voters to vote for Sayegh in the name of “the Christian Silent Majority,” and claims to have been paid for by the PAC backing Sayegh for mayor.
On Sunday, Joe Waks, who is the organizer of the Progressive Values Committee, condemned the piece in the strongest possible terms.
“There is a reprehensible fake mail piece being dropped into Paterson with the Progressive Values Committee name on it that fraudulently attempts to make race and religion an issue in Tuesday’s election. We think it is a disgusting piece and we have absolutely nothing to do with it.”
The Andre Sayegh Campaign told Tapinto that they had forwarded all of the relevant materials in the case to the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office.
Even as Castro talked to InsiderNJ, representatives from the different rival mayoral camps were supposedly planning to meet to discuss the hate piece face to face. On his Facebook page Sunday evening, Castro wrote that he was feeling amused. “The feebel [sic] minded attempt is laughable. LOL,” he wrote.