The Frame Work in Paterson for a Post-Joey World

The NBC news today about Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ imminent arrest on corruption charges in Paterson sets up the possibility of a special election for the mayoralty prior to the scheduled May 2014 nonpartisan election.

Of course, it’s probable that if charged Torres – like his friend U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) – will fight all efforts to get him to step down while he attempts to clear his name – if the report proves true.

But through this period of political turbulence in Silk City, several names continually come to the fore as potential successors to the bruised Torres.

They include:

At-Large Councilman Alex Mendez. The Dominican won his seat in 2014 as the city’s biggest vote-getter.

Former Deputy Mayor Pedro Rodriguez. One of Torres’ chief campaign strategists in 2014, the well-connected Torres has a better inside game than Mendez, but likely not the numbers, as Dominicans have supplanted Puerto Ricans as the city’s biggest Latino voting bloc.

Council President Bill McKoy. If Torres resigns, the council would vote on an interim mayor, and McCoy has the votes. The veteran 3rd ward councilman would have election advantages of (potentially) incumbency and a mangled Hispanic vote if Mendez and Rodriguez stay in the contest.

Councilman Mike Jackson. The former pro football player and restaurant owner has a story to tell and proved a gritty campaigner in back to back Ward 1 wins when Anthony Ebony Davis dropped on corruption charges. He’d have trouble getting around McCoy.

Councilman Andre Sayegh. With two citywide races already behind him (2010 and 2014), Sayegh has built relationships in Paterson over the course of the last ten years. But while he still has a fan club, he has lost allies like Al Abdel-aziz (who lost a close challenge to Sayegh in a ward race last year), and finds himself up against the same old challenge: the demographic reality of his home city. His best shot is if Jackson and McCoy and Mendez and Rodriguez are all in the races, splintering one another’s bases. But Paterson is usally not as simple as that, as Torres proved in 2014 when multiple Latinos did little to impair his convincing ballot box win.

**Many in Paterson see Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly (D-35), a beloved football coach who taught pro Victor Cruz how to play wide receiver at Paterson Catholic, as the man of the hour. But it’s unlikely Wimberly –  a family man who still has sons in high school and college – will run.

Another respected name in the city, veteran Councilman Ken Morris, Jr., VP of St. Joseph’s Hospital, is also unlikely to take the plunge from the third to second floor of City Hall.

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