Would Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh look to take on a higher office in the coming years? “I wouldn’t discount it,” the mayor told Insider NJ.
While not definitively saying yes or no, Mayor Sayegh added that there is nothing wrong with ambition “if there is the talent to match.”
The mayor has proven himself a savvy political survivor in one of the toughest cities in New Jersey. Having fended off relentless assaults by challengers for the 2022 mayoral election, Councilman Alex Mendez—who allied himself with former Mayor Joey Torres—presented the greatest threat. But even still, Sayegh defeated his opponents, hampered by legal baggage in the form of indictments and Torres’ own stint in jail, handily. The Roman Catholic Lebanese-Syrian has no natural enclave in the City of Paterson, which is profoundly divided along religious and ethnic lines politically. The fact that he was able to pull off two victories, each with a sizeable margin, remains a testament to his acumen and broad political appeal in Silk City. His critics and opponents, who are numerous, may take their swipes, but he remains with his head above the waves caused by a fractious council and City establishment.
In Passaic County, Paterson is the seat of government, and it is around Paterson that the 9th Congressional District orbits. That seat is presently occupied by the 85-year-old Bill Pascrell, Jr., himself mayor of Paterson from 1990-1997 before being succeeded by the late Marty Barnes, a Republican and the first African-American mayor of the city.
With Governor Phil Murphy unable to serve three terms, he will be planning his career after Trenton. Many politicos speculate that he has his eye on Washington DC in some capacity, perhaps looking to position himself to follow in the Quixotic footsteps of the previous New Jersey governor. Democrats are in need of a reliable successor to Murphy, someone with name recognition and a proven record, and as such, some of the names being tossed around are Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. Given the dynamics of the relationship between Democratic State Chairman LeRoy Jones, himself Essex County chair, and the Newark mayor, a Baraka candidacy might prove less desirable for the current party arrangement than Sherrill or possibly another major urban figure like Sayegh.
A Democratic governor needs to strike the ideal balance between the Left and the Right to avoid the black eye Jack Ciattarelli delivered to Murphy, even though the incumbent managed to hang on and be the first Democrat re-elected since Brendan Byrne. Perceived as a progressivist’s champion, Murphy’s left-leaning policies have fueled the GOP which managed to make a few gains, although they remain a minority party. How the midterm elections shake out will be telling for how Murphy’s Democratic successor needs to package his or her ideology.
Sayegh could be a useful man for such a job, but if that’s the hope of the Democratic state establishment wary of Baraka at the helm, they might be disappointed.
A source told Insider NJ that Sayegh’s eye is definitively closer to home in CD-9, looking to be the successor to fellow Patersonian Pascrell rather than having inclinations to Trenton.
If the abilities do indeed match the ambition, it would seem like a natural evolution for Sayegh, even if that leaves Democrat kingpins with fewer alternatives to a Baraka gubernatorial candidacy in 2025.