PATERSON – They were never close.
But now U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9) and Paterson Mayor Jeff Jones can’t occupy the same stage without appearing visibly, teeth grindingly on edge less than two years ahead of the 2014 mayor’s election.
“Absolutely, I am running,” Jones told PolitickerNJ.com.
He doesn’t say it within earshot of Pascrell, otherwise another wince might ensue.
Jones isn’t the only one running for mayor.
So is Passaic County Freeholder T.J. Best, and so is Councilman Andre Sayegh – both Pascrell loyalists vying for the congressman’s – and Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly’s (D-35) – political attention in a double play for Democratic Party establishment support to bulldoze Jones out of City Hall.
So – apparently – is former Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres.
Their efforts so far look to be playing to Jones’s advantage, who doesn’t have to worry about trying to get close to the congressman.
Pascrell stood at the centerpiece of a press conference this morning announcing a new federal SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) Act that will enable the Paterson Fire Department to retain 40 firefighters and hire nine new ones.
Arms akimbo in a long black overcoat, Mayor Jones, who backed Pascrell’s out of town rival in last year’s Democratic Primary, towered on one of the wings, and waited as Pascrell made the rounds of dignitaries whose union titles bear the stamp of prestige in their corners of power if not the city seal.
“”I’ll stand on the side,” Jones explained when he approached the microphone, the last to speak in the company of the firefighters arrayed to receive the grant. “I stand on the wings confident in the jobs our fire and police chiefs do.”
It was hardly a veiled jab at Pascrell, who commanded the event, with Wimberly, Sayegh and Councilman Ken Morris, Jr. part of the political nimbus emanating from the podium.
“We put in the application,” Jones later reminded Fire Chief Michael Postorin when the event had ended.
But the chief publicly praised the congressman.
“When we realized where we were in terms of the budget and what it would mean for our staffing levels going forward we picked up the phone and called Congressman Pascrell,” said Postorino, delighted in the receipt of $6,975,860
One of the only people in Paterson who backed Steve Rothman over Pascrell, Jones finished the primary season looking like a political casualty. But the fact that both Best and Sayegh are pursuing the mayor’s office and putting Pascrell in the tough position of not wanting to back one of his protégés over the other and creating a two-headed establishment alternative to the incumbent, makes Jones appear mathematically stronger at this moment.
There is, however, an X-factor: Wimberly, whose firm support behind Best, Sayegh or someone else, could change the terrain overnight. Whatever kingmaker presence the popular assemblyman had pre-2013 becomes that much more intense now given the breadth field of Jones challengers, a source told PolitickerNJ.com.
In the meantime, with a nod to Pascrell ensconced at the center of the cameras, “He does his thing, and I do mine,” the mayor said.