Three weeks ago, this column somewhat exaggerated the confrontation between West New York Commissioner Dr. Count J. Wiley and West New York Mayor Dr. Felix Roque. Wiley’s supporters were quick to take this column to task, suggesting that there is a viable movement in that politically-troubled city that would follow a new leader if one should emerge.
Now, Wiley appears to be taking center stage as one of the victims of Roque’s political purge, and he has called once more for the resignation of a mayor on whose ticket he successfully ran in 2010.
Wiley appears to be starting a political revolution that the Recall Roque movement failed to produce earlier.
The conflict is expected to boil over at the July 18 commissioners’ meeting, when Wiley is expected to oppose two new provisions that would expand massage parlors in West New York – a move some believe would benefit Dr. Roque’s medical practice, which currently offers chiropractic services. Wiley is also supposedly going to oppose an ordinance for increased fees on street vendors.
But these are small battles compared to the titanic undercurrents of dissatisfaction among many who once supported Roque as a reformer and have come to see him as someone who has proven little better and perhaps a lot less adept than the mayor he replaced.
This all has to come against a backdrop of larger politics, and the dramatic betrayals that took place in the race for U.S. Senate when Roque endorsed the Republican state Sen. Joe Kyrillos over Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, only to reverse himself later, apparently under significant pressure from his closest political allies, who remained loyal to Menendez.
Roque and his son have been charged by the federal government with allegedly hacking into the website of their political enemies in an effort to allegedly intimidate them. Many believe that Roque may be forced to resign, although he will likely hold out unless he is convicted, rather than stepping down upon indictment. Roque has yet to be indicted, although some expect this to occur in the fall.
Wiley’s rise from the political ashes of Roque’s administration is no surprise, since he has ties to North Bergen where much hostility still remains towards the Roque administration. But more importantly, Wiley has become the latest victim in what many see as Roque’s desperate attempt to root out political enemies, and in the end, the mayor appears to be creating political foes and giving them a platform to run on.
Wiley was very upset when Roque reassigned him during the reorganization meeting three weeks ago and was apparently restrained by police officers, but not escorted out as reported in this column.
A hastily called press conference
Meanwhile, Kyrillos, the Republican challenging Menendez, invaded the heartland of his political foe, making stops in West New York, Union City, North Bergen and Jersey City.
This may explain why Menendez’s office suddenly announced a press conference in which local public officials received very short notice.
“He came here to meet with the people,” said Hudson County Republican Chairman Jose Arango. “He visited La Pola in West New York and Meson Espanol on Kennedy Blvd. He also visited a supermarket on 48th Street and a farmers market in Jersey City.”
Kyrillos may not win in Menendez’s strongest county, but he hopes to draw off votes that will keep Menendez from generating votes in Hudson County that would make up for Republican votes elsewhere in the state.
“The people were very receptive,” Arango said. “Not all of them will vote for Joe, but they still greeted him.”
Arango said the Republican ticket in Hudson County may well bring more votes to Kyrillos than in previous years, especially in newly-Republican rich places such as Hoboken or in places like Bayonne, Kearny, and Secaucus where Republicans, especially in presidential years, tend to do better than in the Democratic heartland of cities like Jersey City.
“There are a number of communities in North Hudson are looking for a champion,” Arango said.
Maria Pinerio Karczewski, a former councilwoman from Bayonne, is running against Menendez runningmate Rep. Albio Sires. Arango believes that she will help drain votes from the Democrats in November, and could help Kyrillos win elsewhere in the state.
“We’re going to be running a tough campaign,” Arango said. “We’re getting the word out about our candidates, we’re going to go door to door, and we’re going to meet as many people as possible. We have always done well in places like Bayonne and Secaucus; I believe this year we will do even better. Menendez needs to get 80,000 votes out of Hudson County. If he doesn’t, then he risks losing the state.”