Councilman Alex Mendez is attempting to capture disgraced mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ base of supporters. In a fundraiser over the weekend, Mendez received the support of Torres’ brother Sammy Torres.
Some political observers see the support from Sammy Torres as a way for Mendez to pick-up some of the almost 8,400 people who cast ballots for Torres in 2014. Mendez’s opponents in next year’s race criticized him on Monday for accepting support from the ex-mayor’s brother.
“His standards are really low when it comes to receiving money from people,” said former school board member Pedro Rodriguez. “I cannot go to voters and tell them I’m going to be fighting corruption, but at the same time receiving money in my pocket from people who are directly linked to the most recent corruption case in Paterson.”
Sammy Torres’ son Manuel Torres was one of the partners in the proposed beer distribution facility that was being renovated by government employees at taxpayers’ expense that led to mayor Torres’ conviction.
The ex-mayor’s brother is a former police officer, who owns two liquor stores – Economy Liquors and Midtown Liquors — in Paterson.
It’s not clear whether Sammy Torres made a contribution to Mendez’s campaign at the Saturday fundraiser.
Neither Mendez nor Sammy Torres responded to calls for comment for this report.
Whether Sammy Torres’ support will translate to votes for Mendez in next year’s race is an open question. Association with the disgraced mayor may do more harm than good for Mendez.
Some suggest Mendez is attempting to capture what remains of the city’s Puerto Rican community.
Mendez belongs to the Dominican community which is the largest Spanish-speaking group in the city. Mayoral candidates often attempt to capture the votes of each of the city’s numerous ethnic groups in order to win office particularly in a citywide election.
School board Manny Martinez is the sole Puerto Rican considering a run. He formed a committee, but has yet to declare whether he will run or sit out the race.
Ex-mayor Torres easily carried Puerto Rican voters each time he ran for office.
“That’s rather interesting, that concept. I don’t think voters are locked into any camp to be shifted and traded like baseball cards,” said councilman William McKoy. “I think Paterson voters are awake and they will make the choice for themselves.”
Councilman Andre Sayegh said this is just another example of poor decision making from Mendez. “There’s a pattern of poor decision making,” he said. He cited the 2012 case when Mendez supported Steve Rothman against hometown congressman Bill Pascrell.
Mendez was among a group of Latino leaders to back Rothman.
“I think many people will view Alex Mendez is trying to continue the culture of corruption. Why would you accept that endorsement?” remarked Sayegh. He described Sammy Torres’ liquor store on Broadway as one of the “most notorious” in the city.
Sammy Torres’ liquor store on the corner of Broadway and Summer Street is in a rough neighborhood. The store often has a crowd in front of it.
Mendez has been under heavy attack from his many opponents in the developing race. He faces a formidable challenger in Pedro Rodriguez.
Rodriguez is also from the Dominican community. This has prevented Mendez, who was viewed just two years ago as the de facto leader of the city’s Dominican community, from consolidating that ethnic groups’ support behind him.
Mendez is a tireless campaigner. In successive races, Mendez has been the highest voter-getter. Sayegh points out those races had multiple seats available — the at-large council and school board elections.
Either Mendez or Rodriguez has to consolidate the Dominican community’s vote behind them in order to win in a race that has a dozen candidates. So far, Rodriguez, Mendez, McKoy, Sayegh, Michael Jackson, Glenn Brown, and Chauncey Brown have declared their run. There are more who are considering like prominent attorney Kenyatta Stewart.