PATERSON – The Torres camp dislikes the fact that Rigo Rodriguez is in the mayor’s race.
The presence of the at-large councilman muddies the former mayor’s effort to consolidate Latino votes and, they say, cruise to victory.
But Torres allies reserve a special disdain for Maria Teresa Feliciano, the third Hispanic candidate in the race for mayor of Paterson.
Torres has publicly elbowed Rodriguez in at least two encounters over the last number of days. Sources close to the former mayor confirm that the citywide councilman’s base poses challenges.
Feliciano doesn’t have that projection of power that accompanies a proven winner of races, so the proliferation of Feliciano signs in Paterson and her accompanying campaign trail energy and willingness to trash Torres have partisans of the former mayor mildly irritated but mostly unconvinced of her ability to do real damage in two weeks.
As the contest hardens and many insiders see a two-man contest between Torres and Council President Andre Sayegh, an uptick of whispering about the ultimate affiliations of the other contenders dominates the back chambers of the race.
At this point, sources close to Torres see Feliciano as either a nonfactor a helpmate of Sayegh.
But even as her 29-day filing with ELEC goes unfiled (her campaign finance person was sick for the first two weeks of April, the candidate says), Feliciano insists that she will win on May 13th.
“I don’t want a job [in the Sayegh administration],” the former Passaic County administrator with the criminal division of the judiciary told PolitickerNj. “I’m not interested in that. I’m running for mayor.
“I have no idea where they get that,” she added, of the notion that she is in to spoil. “It’s an interesting comment to put out there.”
She says she hears it all: that she is an instrument of the Sayegh Campaign while simultaneously a mole for the Republican Party.
Feliciano holds to her message of disgust with all of the male candidates, those career politicos who have dominated the public landscape for the past decade plus.
That includes Sayegh, a former staffer for U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9) first elected to the city council in 2008.
“Andre is a party puppet,” Feliciano said. “He is no different from the other male candidates in the race. When you sit there in the debates you hear the fights among them, arguments over their records. Some are downright illegal, others bordering on unlawful. The leadership in this city is a disgraceful.
“By endorsing Andre Sayegh, the Democratic Party is trying to get control of Paterson by electing a puppet of the party,” she added. “I think the endorsement corroborates my position against this establishment. The people will see it for what it is and they will reject it.”
But how can she break out and impose her will on a contest seemingly dominated by known brand name Torres and Sayegh, who now has the force of the Democratic Party establishment behind him?
“We have a structure – approximately 200 people who will be getting the vote out; the same structure we had before this endorsement,” said Feliciano. “We haven’t done anything different. Joey is running because he has a sense of trying to finish something he started. The other reason is he wants to make sure a Dominican doesn’t become mayor. He has traditionally had a very bad relationship with Dominicans.”
If she loses, does she rule out running against the Democratic Party establishment next year as a statement of protest over the party getting in this year’s mayor’s contest?
“I don’t rule it out,” she said. “But it’s not something I planned. I decided to run for mayor because of my background in public administration.”