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The state of the race for mayor of Paterson: the election and aftermath

The field of candidates for mayor of Paterson: top row(l-r): Torres, Sayegh, Rodriguez, Nelson-Ivy; bottom row(l-r): Jones, Goow, Gilmore, Feliciano.
The field of candidates for mayor of Paterson: top row(l-r): Torres, Sayegh, Rodriguez, Nelson-Ivy; bottom row(l-r): Jones, Goow, Gilmore, Feliciano.
North Jersey

As already chronicled, the mayoral race in Paterson had become very heated with a crowded field each making their respective cases. There was the former mayor asking for another chance. The current mayor fighting against a failed record. An emerging face asking for his chance. And a handful of wildcards hoping they could break through in a surprise outcome. In the end, the city chose to give its former mayor another term.

Jose “Joey” Torres once again became mayor of Paterson largely due to the amount of mail-in ballots in his favor. He crushed his closest rival, Council President Andre Sayegh, by a 3 to 1 margin in this area despite what looked like a good ground game by Sayegh that was putting him in favorable position for election day voters.

Torres served from 2002-2010 before losing to Mayor Jeffrey Jones in 2010. Torres comes back to Paterson after serving as a business administrator in Jackson. Over 8,000 voters put Torres back in power while only 1,700 voters still had faith in Jones.

In the wake of Torres' victory, there were a couple main post-election thoughts being stirred. One of the bigger "what ifs" circled around the fact that Assembly Benjie Wimberly (D-35) chose not to run for mayor. Wimberly rose through the ranks in Paterson before going to the state Assembly. One of the biggest advantages that Torres had in the race was his strong back by the largely Hispanic city's main demographic. It is hard to tell how many more Hispanic voters Wimberly would have received that Sayegh did not receive. But the bigger demographic that Wimberly would have been able to use to his advantage was the city's African American voters who largely have favored Jones. Taking voters away from Jones and taking some additional voters away from Torres could have provided a winning margin for Wimberly.

All the main members of the Democratic Party who backed Sayegh likely would have backed Wimberly as he was their first choice and Sayegh decided to run after Wimberly officially was not running. Sayegh was essentially having to compete with Torres and Rigo Rodriguez for Hispanics, Jones for African Americans, and Aslon Goow Sr. for Muslims in the city.

With politics sometimes, timing can be a major factor in a race too. While Sayegh's entry into the race and a pretty aggressive campaign against Torres both occurred early enough in the race to provide time for him to boost his campaign; major endorsements came possibly too late. Wimberly along with a core group of Democrats including Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ9) formally put their support behind Sayegh's candidacy with less than a month to go before election day. With money and power behind him, if he had more time to expand his outreach it may have gotten him more mail-in ballot votes as well as more African American voters; a core group that he needed to put in his corner to counteract the likely total of Hispanic votes Torres would receive.

Even when that core group of major Democrats staged a rally to expand Sayegh's name to voters and garner their support; Torres' camp along with other rivals' camps put bodies on the streets to protest against what they saw as Democrats like Pascrell putting "a mouthpiece" in the mayor's office. Sayegh would ultimately fall about 1,400 votes short of Torres getting about 6,600 votes.

Goow himself would get about 2,000 votes beating Jones as well. Goow's votes included African American and Muslim voters that Sayegh wanted and needed to push ahead of Torres.

Now after a race that gave voters a choice between the past, present, and future; the attention turns to how the Democratic Party coalesces around Torres as he hopes to bring some successes of his first two terms again to Paterson. The city elected Jones four years ago hoping for change and the city got that; just not the type they wanted. It is up to Torres to move the city forward and based on the election's outcome; he has many supporters behind him who have faith he can address the city's issues.

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