WEST NEW YORK – The scene inside Las Palmas restaurant on Bergenline Avenue was cathartically chaotic as supporters of West New York Mayor Felix Roque danced deep into the night, rejoicing in their victory.
Roque’s victory on Tuesday over mayoral race rival Count Wiley included wins for the entire Roque commissioner slate, which includes Commissioners Cosmo Cirillo and Gabriel Rodriguez, as well as Susan Colacurcio and Margarita Guzman.
But for Roque, the triumph was tinged with a degree of sadness.
“I’m very happy, but I’m very concerned about my mother,” said Roque about his seriously ailing family member as he left his victory party early to get to his mother’s bedside. “Her last wishes were for me to win. She got her wish. Now it’s time to heal West New York. We’ve got to work together, forget about the past and regroup to make this town even better.”
For Roque campaign manager Pablo Fonseca, his time working in West New York, a place with a Cuban-born mayor and many Cuban-American residents, had a meaning beyond politics.
“I came from Cuba when I was three years old. My dad was a political prisoner. I met my dad when I was 18 years old,” said Fonseca, 51, a veteran political operative with deep experience in urban races, including in Newark. “It’s great to come here and listen to all the stories like mine and stories like my dad’s. I spent most of my career in Essex County, but West New York is beautiful. It’s like a second home to me. All these people that I meet, they’re like my grandparents, my brothers and my sisters. It’s like we’re one family.”
Among some friends, Fonseca joked in Spanish, saying “la pela” over and over while he and friends laughed.
Asked what the term meant, Fonseca noted it was referring to Tuesday night’s election results.
“It means a beating,” Fonseca said, smiling. “A spanking. An ass-whipping.”