A number of close supporters of Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, 2nd Ward councilman, are dismayed at the councilman’s last week’s endorsement of Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, for mayor.
“I was a big supporter of his, and that’s changed,” said Mohammed Mahmud, one of the councilman’s most ardent supporters. Mahmud went door to door with Akhtaruzzaman during his first run, second run, and was a major impetus behind an impressive fundraising campaign that bankrolled the councilman’s legal battle with Aslon Goow, former 2nd Ward councilman, in the superior court.
“It’s his personal choice, but if I was him I would have stayed neutral,” said Mahmud. Another key supporter of the councilman said by making an endorsement in an unpredictable election Akhtaruzzaman is making a risky move.
“Joey Torres, if he is mayor we need his help. Jeffery Jones, if he is mayor, we need his help,” said the unnamed supporter. “I told him don’t endorse anybody,” said the unnamed supporter. “It’s a chaotic election, we do not know who is going to win. Anyone can win with a small margin.”
“A lot of them told me to remain neutral,” said Akhtaruzzaman. The councilman said the city’s current election is far too important for him to stand idly by. “When Andre Sayegh wins he will benefit the community,” said Akhtaruzzaman.
Mahmud said the councilman’s endorsement came out of the blue without much discussions with the individuals who put him in power. Akhtaruzzaman said as a leader his job is to guide and he is doing just that by endorsing the most capable candidate for the city’s highest office. “He’s going to bring the city back to where it was,” said Akhtaruzzaman. “He’s a highly educated man, has a degree from Columbia University.”
“If I’m the leader, let me make the choice; if everybody in the community make choices for me, then who am I?” asked Akhtaruzzaman alluding to the various leaders within the Bangladeshi community siding with other candidates.
The city’s Bangladeshi community appears to be divided on their mayoral pick: one faction is behind Rigo Rodriguez, councilman at-large, another is behind Goow, and another is backing Jeffery Jones, incumbent city mayor.
Prior to the councilman’s run, Mahmud and others organized a political network within the Bangladeshi community that voted entirely for Jones in 2010. Mahmud and others, who are diehard supporters of the mayor, wanted the councilman to either support Jones or remain neutral.
Akhtaruzzaman tapped into that network of voters which allowed him to swiftly capture the council seat.
Jones has done very little for the city’s Bangladeshi population making it difficult for Mahmud and others to sell their candidate a second time. Jones promised jobs, but until recently he had provided none. Jones provided two crossing guard positions and two practically ceremonial commissionerships.
Political insiders have said the Passaic County Democratic Party has been pressuring local politicians connected with the party to endorse Sayegh for mayor. Akhtaruzzaman, who is a member of the party’s county committee, fell under that pressure, according to strategists.
Akhtaruzzaman said once the dust settles after the mayoral election his supporters will better understand the reasoning behind his choice. “Once the results settle down after the election they’ll realize,” said the councilman.
Sayegh last Thursday announced on his blog that he had received the endorsements of Akhtaruzzaman and Manuel Martinez, school board member. Earlier in the week, Sayegh said he was unfamiliar with any backlash the councilman might be receiving from his supporters.