WEST NEW YORK – Here it comes.
Not mayhem or bedlam exactly, but that very raw feeling in the gut that starts the day before an election.
In the uptick of bullhorn activity from the opposition, Mayor Sal Vega radiated comfort at his campaign headquarters on Bergenline Avenue.
“I’ve been here since I was 10 years old – people know who I am; I’ve chosen to be an elected official,” said the incumbent, a track star who landed on the Defino ticket that defeated Sires back in the day.
“I’m very confident that our whole team will win, and I think the negative campaigning by the other side, and their pinpointing candidates on our side are signs of desperation,” Vega added.
The record of a member of the mayor’s team, Commissioner Gerry Lange, has served as a jumping off point for several attacks by challenger Felix Roque. Vega’s broken-down marriage, too, has prompted some catcall literature in the closing days.
“If that’s their strategy, it’s a failed strategy,” said Vega.
Part of Vega’s re-election effort has hinged on his organizational ties to powerful Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, (D-NJ), North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco, and others. Foe turned uneasy friend Union City Mayor Brian P. Stack stayed on the sidelines of this contest, a bitter disappointment to the Roque team, who had hoped for Stack’s support.
“This is as well organized a campaign as I have ever seen,” said Vega. “We’re going to have a nice margin of victory.
“Sen. Menendez’s support has been critical, yes, important – he’s someone I have known for 25 years – a friend. He is well-liked as an elected official here.”
A vehicle passed on Bergenline and a Roque partisan yelled to the passing crowd. In an eatery later, the doors swung open and a young woman made the rounds, distributing to the occupants of chairs and stools a Roque piece aimed at City Hall workers: “Under Dr. Roque’s administration, you will be free… to do your job; you will be rewarded for the quality of your work, not how much money you give; work environment free of intimidations and threats.”
Vega said he believed sufficient time had passed since 2009, when he imposed serious tax hikes and, in his words, “made the tough decisions others are making now in other towns.” For Roque, now is the reckoning for Vega, but insiders continue to wonder if he has the organization to match the powerfully connected incumbent.