BLOOMFIELD – Essex County Latino leaders joined Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia on Wednesday to add their names to the list of officials backing the incumbent in the June 7 mayoral race where he will face Councilman Joseph Lopez. State Senator Teresa Ruiz (D-29), Newark North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos and Newark Councilman-at-Large Luis Quintana endorsed Venezia.
In April, Bloomfield Democratic Chairman Peter Strumolo, a Lopez supporter, issued a statement calling on Bloomfield residents to make “history by electing the first Latino Mayor in Bloomfield and in Essex County’s history.” Strumolo’s April letter also claimed that it is “time [the] Democratic Party start supporting members of all our communities, especially our large Latino community of Bloomfield, NJ.” However, the Wednesday endorsement for Venezia by Latino leaders undercuts that call as Latino leaders like Ruiz threw support behind Venezia.
According to Venezia, the hearkening to Lopez’s Latino heritage is not taking into account that Bloomfield is represented by a diverse council.
“I serve as mayor on a council that is probably one of the most diverse councils in the country,” Venezia told PolitickerNJ. “I have the support of two of the Latinos on the council and the other one is the competitor. Statements like that are just trying to gain some political propaganda. We are a very open community, we are a very open council, we have a very open team. We just want to move forward.”
For Ruiz—who called Venezia a “friend”—Venezia’s continued service as mayor is critical in order to ensure economic growth in Bloomfield.
According to Ramos, Venezia’s commitment to diversity is demonstrated by the candidates he is running with on the council: Carlos Pomares, Wartyna Davis and Ted Gamble.
“Mike is someone who is very committed to diversity. All you have to do is look at his running mates,” Ramos said. The Newark councilman also stressed that under Venezia, Bloomfield has made economic progress and become a model for neighboring Essex County towns like Newark. Both Ruiz and Ramos also issued remarks in Spanish.
Quintana served as Newark’s interim mayor from 2013 and 2014. He was the first Hispanic to be elected as an at-large councilman in Newark. According to Quintana, Venezia is representing all of his constituents in “a positive way.”
“The diversity of your town is a reflection. You have been a friend, you have been a champion,” Quintana said to Venezia during the announcement of his support. “It is not about individuals, it is about a campaign that represents all.”
The endorsement from the Latino leaders comes on the heels of other high-profile Essex County endorsements for Venezia. The incumbent has secured support from the LD28 legislators state Senator Ron Rice, Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker and Assemblyman Ralph Caputo. He also has the backing of Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, Essex County Democratic Chairman Leroy Jones, building trades, PBA and FMBA.
Caputo was also present at the Wednesday event. According got the assemblyman, the deep ties demonstrated by those who are backing Venezia make him the strongest candidate for mayor. Caputo said that Venezia has the connections to the state and county required to keep Bloomfield moving forward.
Lopez has recently been vocal about a study issued by Seton Hall Law which claims that racial profiling is a major factor in Bloomfield when police are issuing tickets. He has claimed that Venezia and his team have failed to properly address the issue and held a meeting last month to discuss the study. Earlier this month, Venezia held a similar forum of his own to address the topic. Both events were attended by the LD28 team that would later step out for Venezia. Now, Venezia says he is working closely with the administration and the police department to address the issue and ensure that no such racial profiling occurs in Bloomfield.
“Bloomfield’s incredible diversity is part of what make it one of the most exciting places in New Jersey, where people from every background work together toward a common goal – moving our community forward,” Venezia said. “I am grateful that some of our state’s most respected Latino leaders are joining our campaign and proud to stand with them today.”