Former councilman Alex Mendez has unseated five-term incumbent councilman William McKoy in the City Council ward elections.
Mendez received 1,595 votes to McKoy’s 1,350 in the five-person race.
“It was a very difficult election,” said Mendez in a video to his supporters. He had to turn his campaign headquarters into a distribution hub for hand sanitizer, mask, and gloves because of the coronavirus pandemic, he said. “God is the one responsible for this victory.”
Mendez thanked McKoy for his 20 years of service to the 3rd Ward.
The outcome of the election shocked many in political circles. When asked about the election defeat on Wednesday morning, McKoy, the longest serving member of the City Council, said, “You’ll have to ask the Board of Elections. I’m waiting to see what the actual results are.”
The Passaic County Board of Elections has come under criticism for disqualifying hundreds of votes. But the criticism mostly came from the Mendez campaign.
“A larger percentage was rejected than many past elections. It’s because we found discrepancies,” said John Currie, chairman of the Board of Elections. “I have a lot of concerns. I can’t go into it at this point.”
The ward elections were marred by allegations of voter fraud. More than 300 3rd Ward mail-in ballots were found bundled in a mailbox in Haledon. Both the U.S. Postal Service and the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office are investigating the allegations of voter fraud.
McKoy’s team had suspected his opponents were working together in the race. But his opponent denied they were cooperating to unseat him. Some have pointed out McKoy, who is black, lost the race because the African-American vote in the 3rd Ward was divided among four people. Three other black candidates – Chauncey I. Brown, III, Robyn Spencer, and Sharrieff Bugg — drew away votes that would otherwise go to McKoy.
Brown received 43 votes. Spencer, 118. And Bugg, 296. Had McKoy received those 457 votes, he could have kept Mendez at bay.
McKoy narrowly defended his seat against Mendez in 2012. After the defeat Mendez became a school board member; he later served as an at-large member of the City Council from 2014 to 2018.
Mendez decided not to defend his at-large seat and ran for mayor. He finished second place in the mayoral race behind Andre Sayegh. Mendez has criticized the mayor’s running of the municipal government over the past two years. But on Tuesday night, Mendez had a conciliatory message for the mayor.
“To the mayor, Andre Sayegh, I’m looking forward to working with you,” said Mendez. His victory puts him in a strong position to challenge Sayegh for the mayor’s seat in two years.
“My administration is firmly focused on leading Paterson through this pandemic and all willing partners are welcome. Solidarity during this crisis is what we should all be striving for,” said Sayegh.
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Updated 1:37 p.m.