After facing nearly two years of opposition from a critical City Council, mayor Andre Sayegh is attempting to change the make up of the governing body.
Sayegh gave $5,000 to five candidates from his campaign account, according to filings made with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC). He gave $1,000 each to Luis Velez, William McKoy, Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, Nakima Redmon, and Ruby Cotton.
Velez, McKoy, and Cotton are incumbents. Redmon is attempting to take out controversial councilman Michal Jackson and Akhtaruzzaman is trying to unseat councilman Shahin Khalique.
Jackson has constantly lambasted Sayegh and his administration for incompetence and failure. He lately began to criticize the administration for failing to set up a Covid-19 testing site for residents. Khalique has also criticized the Sayegh administration. He attacked the mayor for his botched sewer reforms that led to huge spikes in bills for homeowners.
Political observers say the mayor’s support for candidates can cut both ways. Sayegh’s tenure so far has been rocky with multiple tax and fee increases. He has also been involved in opaque development deals. Municipal officials said the mayor is attempting to guarantee bonds for private developers. If the developers default, taxpayers will be on the hook. Sayegh hasn’t been able to overcome hurdles presented by councilman Flavio Rivera and council president Maritza Davila to bring the measures before the full governing body for a vote. Those receiving succor from the mayor may end up losing votes. On the other hand, the mayor has a loyal base of supporters, who often rally behind him. Support from the mayor may help the five candidates to secure those voters.
Other mayors – both Martin Barnes and Jose “Joey” Torres — have tried similar strategies without success.
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