Councilman Shahin Khalique spent $111,771 – more than all three of his opponents put together — in the heavily contested 2nd Ward election, according to a New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) report his campaign filed months after the election.
Khalique’s closest opponent then-incumbent Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman spent $33,560, according to his campaign reports. His other opponents Aslon Goow spent $17,705 and Eddie Gonzalez expended $32,914.
“I’m sure it’s a lot more than that,” said Eddie Gonzalez of Khalique’s spending. “He paid off a lot of people for work.” He pointed to the massive vote by mail operation the Khalique campaign undertook and ultimately succeeded in winning office only to be mired in a lawsuit with the then-incumbent.
“Wow. It’s unbelievable,” said Goow when told of the amount of money Khalique spent on winning the 2nd Ward council seat. “At the end of the day was this all worth it?”
Paterson councilperson is a part-time position with a $41,000 salary, according to municipal records.
“With money he basically bought the election,” said Akhtaruzzaman. He said he did not believe the number reported by Khalique’s campaign.
Khalique did not respond to a call for comment on Wednesday morning.
Gonzalez is the only one of the four candidates to file his final 20-day post-election report on time. The state has yet to receive Goow, Akhtaruzzaman, and Khalique’s 20-day post-election reports which were due at the end of May.
“I thought we filed it. I’m going to ask my treasurer,” said Akhtaruzzaman when asked about his final report.
Goow said the state returned his post-election report and sought additional information on several of his donors.
Khalique contributed $105,815 of his own money into the campaign, according his reports. Much of his campaign spending went towards canvassing operations, advertising, and campaign staff.
His campaign also had small items like a Netflix subscription for “documentaries,” according to his report.
“I wish we could get a breakdown of the movies he took out,” joked Goow, who represented the 2nd Ward for three terms, prior to losing to Akhtaruzzaman in 2012.
Gonzalez also wondered which documentaries the councilman’s campaign streamed via Netflix. He noted most of the documentaries can be watched on YouTube these days.
Gonzalez said the delinquent filing of campaign reports is a sure sign of much worse conduct when those candidates assume office. “They are not playing by the rules,” he said. He also mentioned the allegations of voter fraud that occurred during the election forcing Akhtaruzzaman to file in court seeking to nullify Khalique’s victory.
“Individuals are acting out and doing whatever it takes to get elected even if it’s unethical or illegal for that matter. What will they do once they are elected? What will they do when faced with a developer who hands them a white envelope for a vote?”