There was a smell coming from Las Palmas Restaurant in West New York and it wasn’t just the delicious Cuban food served there, it was also the smell of unity as Election Day is quick approaching. Supporters in attendance were animated for the arrival of Mayor Felix Roque and surprisingly, he had quite the entourage with him. Roque addressed the crowd with a smile on his face and the look of determination was impossible to miss. In 2011, Roque promised to improve the quality of life in the township and ultimately make West New York a place for people to consider living in and not just driving through.
Joining him during his speech were newly sworn-in commissioners, Gabriel Rodriguez and Cosmo Cirillo, in addition to, the newest candidate on his ticket, long time West New York resident Susan Colacurcio. Colacurcio taught science at Memorial High School for over 40 years and has been a recognizable figure in the community for quite some time. As a Memorial High School alumni, seeing this name on the ticket certainly brings nostalgia to fellow alumni who know what she has contributed to the township. A fifth candidate for the ticket is still up in the air, but Roque appeared quite confident as he addressed the crowd assuring residents his final ticket will be a strong one.
Roque has always been a proponent of diversity since before being elected and now with his current ticket, he continues to stress that benchmark as his quest for re-election kicks into high gear. With the addition of Colacurcio, he looks to appeal to the Italian-American population that still is evident within the township and this is certainly a savvy political move by Roque. The absence of Commissioner FiorD’Aliza Frias confirmed rumors that had been circulating throughout West New York for many weeks. Nothing concrete has surfaced as to why Roque did not keep her on his ticket and there appears to be no sign of her running off the ticket to retain her seat as Commissioner. Essentially, Roque remains the sole member of the 2011 team that pulled off one of the biggest political upsets in the history of Hudson County politics when he unseated Sal Vega during a very heated campaign.
Roque had an impressive guest list appearing with him as he addressed the crowd. The Hudson County Democrat Organization was strongly represented with the following attendees: HCDO Chair and State Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, State Senator and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis, State Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez, former West New York Mayor Sal Vega, Hudson County Freeholder Junior Maldonado and West New York town attorney Donald Scarinci. With this presence, Roque was sending a clear message to his opponent, Dr. Count Wiley that he intends to win re-election decisively. One year ago, there was uncertainty encompassing Roque and his administration. Shortly after being acquitted in October 2013 during his federal trial, Roque entered 2014 with a very shaky relationship with not only residents, but also with members of his party. Hiring Scarinci was a pivotal move in helping repair his image and ultimately, trying to make peace with the HCDO who was keeping him at a safe distance.
Today, Roque enjoys the political blessings of both U.S. Representative Albio Sires and U.S. Senator Bob Menendez after a private fundraiser last year at Son Cubano along the waterfront. A few years back this was seen as nearly impossible. The turmoil once engulfing the HCDO is no more and Roque is certainly breathing a sigh of relief because now he has the party on his side, which was not the case in 2011. Yes, he overcame that obstacle, due largely in part to, Vega being so unpopular and this worked to his advantage. Certainly, there are residents who voice their displeasure concerning Roque at not only town meetings, but also via social media. By all accounts, the work he has put in to salvage his reputation has paid off and whether Wiley can pull of the upset in 3 months remains to be seen. Certainly, the food tasted great for those attending Roque’s campaign kickoff, but knowing he has a decisive advantage during this campaign must taste even better for the West New York Mayor.