A widening probe of Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’s alleged use of city Department of Public Works (DPW) workers for private use has North Jersey sources preparing for the possibility of a special election in Paterson should Torres resign before the end of his term.
Elected to his current term in 2014, Torres is serving his third term as mayor of Paterson.
To be clear, the mayor has given no indication that he plans to stand down, and a source close to the mayor’s office said Torres should not be counted out, dismissing the NBC News report that resulted in the investigation as just another story to make Paterson look bad.
However, multiple sources sense weakness in City Hall right now as the embattled mayor tries to fend off abuse of power charges. At the very least, Torres is politically damaged right now, a condition that presents an inconvenience, for example, to Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.
Fulop has developed Torres as an ally, joining with him and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka to create a tri-city alliance of three northern strongholds, presumably in part to serve as a power base toward Fulop’s 2017 run for governor. The Jersey City mayor may have to harden other local alliances now. But Torres – a veteran player – has actually developed multiple political alliances, from Gov. Chris Christie to former Governor Dick Codey and even Fulop arch-rival Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), who routinely holds press conferences in Paterson with Torres and state Senator Nellie Pou (D-35) as part of his own play for North Jersey support.
Here are those most obvious contenders for the mayor’s seat should the DPW case gobble him up:
Ward 6 Councilman Andre Sayegh
Sayegh ran for mayor in 2014 with the support of U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell and Passaic County Democratic Committee Chairman John Currie but came up short against Torres. Now he has his own tough reelection to navigate against challenger Al Abdel-aziz.
At-Large Councilman Alex Mendez
Mendez was the top vote-getter in 2014 and is the most obvious emblem of the city’s fastest growing Latino community: the Dominicans.
Ward 1 Councilman Mike Jackson
Jackson impressed in his win last year over Manny Martinez. But like Sayegh, he’s embroiled in his own run right now to secure a full, four-year term for the seat formerly occupied by Anthony Davis, who was jammed up on corruption charges. Sources see Jackson as a competent emerging player who could find an opening if two strong Latino candidates cancel each other out in a citywide election.
Police Director Jerry Speziale
Bruce Springsteen with a badge lives in the 6th Ward and is a well-liked and respected figure in law enforcement and political circles. A political animal, he might not be able to resist the urge of getting back into elected office should a special election occur.
Sources see Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly (D-35), Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter (D-35) and At-Large Councilman Ken Morris, Jr. as less likely to run for mayor anytime soon. Defeated in 2014 and now running for a Ward 2 seat, former Councilman Aslon Goow could also again emerge as a mayoral candidate.