The 2011 West New York municipal election is heating up as the Monday deadline for filing petitions draws near, with surprising candidates joining the fight to unseat incumbent Mayor Silverio “Sal” Vega.
In West New York’s form of government, candidates run for the five-member Board of Commissioners, and after the election they choose a mayor from amongst themselves. But it is generally known that when they run for the commission seats, one of them expects to be mayor.
Vega filed petitions for re-election Wednesday along with Commissioners Gerald Lange, Michelle Fernandez-Lopez, Lawrence Riccardi, and Alberto Rodriguez.
Mayoral aspirant Dr. Felix Roque’s full-ticket announcement, scheduled for last Wednesday, was rescheduled due to inclement weather for noon this Monday at 214 60th St.
“Things are looking really good.” – Dr. Felix Roque
Two candidates – the other mayoral aspirant, Fior D’Aliza Frias, and 33rd District Assemblywoman Caridad Rodriguez – are reportedly on board with Roque’s campaign. The names of his other running mates will be revealed on Monday.
As of now, all Roque will reveal is that “things are looking really good,” and promises a surprising lineup of running mates.
“Our commitment to West New York is honest government, lower taxes, safer streets, and a determination to make this great town an even better place to live and raise a family,” Mayor Vega said after filing petitions Wednesday afternoon. “That’s our plan for West New York’s future.” Vega and his team filed over 5,000 signatures.
Vega has the support of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who formally endorsed him in mid-January, and enjoys strong relations with Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise and North Bergen Mayor and Sen. Nicholas Sacco (D-North Bergen).
Until recently, there were two mayoral candidates – Roque and Frias – vying to take the mayoral seat from incumbent Vega. They were running separately, but ideologically united in many ways.
Though Roque had announced his intention to run in the wake of his failed recall election early last year, Frias was the first to officially announce her candidacy on Dec. 5. At her press conference, she announced that she would seek to drive down unemployment rates, improve the school system by offering more educational resources, and open her own office for constituent services.
Roque, who officially announced his candidacy on Jan. 23, reiterated his year-long rallying call to control tax increases, improve the education system, bring the return of safe streets, and enhance overall quality of life for residents.
The two candidates announced their decision to join forces at a press conference on March 2 outside of Roque’s Together We Can headquarters.
“It is because of the similar visions and plans to move West New York forward that made this alliance possible,” Frias said at the press conference. “The residents of West New York deserve better administrators to defend their best interest and provide better quality of life in the town.”
Roque echoed her sentiment. “Enough is enough,” he said. “The people of West New York deserve better.”
At that time, there were several allusions to a possible partnership with Assemblywoman Caridad Rodriguez (D-West New York), which pointed to a strengthening of Roque’s campaign with her constituent backing.
Rodriquez applied for nominating petitions at City Hall as a candidate for commissioner on March 1. Even though she had not officially announced her decision to join Roque’s burgeoning team, Roque spoke highly of her last week in a phone interview last week.
“She’s the kind of person I would love to come and join me in the future,” he said.
This past week, he confirmed “she’s definitely on board.”
Beyond local politics
Rodriquez’ decision to run for a municipal position goes beyond local politics.
Her maneuver comes in the midst of redistricting, which may threaten her position in the Assembly if her town is taken from her ally Sen. Brian P. Stack’s 33rd District, and put into Sacco’s 32nd District.
Vega reportedly hopes West New York will be added to his ally Sacco’s district to afford himself more flexibility. When Stack successfully ran for the state senate in 2007, Vega, supported by Sacco, also vied for the seat, and a nasty campaign ensued. Relations between the two have been contentious ever since.
For Rodriquez to take the commissioner job, she would have to give up her seat in the Assembly. Thus, her decision to take out petitions for the local election is widely regarded as a move to protect herself.
Though Vega’s town may be moved into his ally’s district and out of Stack’s, Rodriquez’s campaign for Vega’s mayor’s seat may present a renewed, local threat to the incumbent mayor due to her close relationship with Stack.
The acquisition of Rodriquez to Roque’s team may give the doctor a connection to neighboring Mayor Stack, a relationship that could have benefits for Roque’s ticket as the election draws near.
Deanna Cullen can be reached at email@example.com.