Two weeks ago, Dr. Felix Roque kicked off his “Dr. Felix Roque for Mayor 2011” campaign, officially making him the second person to announce he will challenge Mayor Sal Vega of West New York in the election on May 10. Fior D’Aliza Frias was the first to announce.
The filing deadline to run is March 14.
In West New York’s form of government, five people run for the five-member Board of Commissioners, and they choose a mayor from among themselves after the election. But it is generally known that when they run for the commission seats, one of them expects to be mayor.
Candidate 1: Sal Vega
For the upcoming mayoral election, Silverio “Sal” Vega received the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez on Jan 13 at a fundraising breakfast at Marinero Grill in West New York.
Vega has been the town’s mayor since 2006, when he was appointed to the position by fellow commissioners to replace then-Mayor Albio Sires, who left after being elected to Congress. Vega was elected to full term the next year.
Vega has also served as a freeholder and state assemblyman. In 2006, Vega resigned from his position on the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders, on which he served from 1997 to 2007, when he was chosen to replace Sires in the New Jersey State Assembly representing the 33rd District. He served there until 2008. Then, he ran for state Senate, but lost a heated race to Union City Mayor Brian Stack.
In West New York, Vega has held a number of roles as a commissioner. He also has served as a member on the Board of Adjustments and the Rent Control Board, and has been the district’s athletic director.
In June 2009, West New York physician and resident Dr. Felix Roque and a group of 20 supporters filed petition papers to recall Vega and Commissioners Gerald Lange, Lawrence Riccardi, Alberto Rodriguez, and Michelle Fernandez-Lopez.
Roque’s movement, the “Together We Can” campaign, was given 160 days to collect signatures from 25 percent of the registered voter population. In trial, the number of valid signatures was deemed insufficient by Judge Maurice Gallipoli.
Roque, who complained about high taxes, vowed to run against Vega in 2011.
Fior D’Aliza Frias
Fior D’Aliza Frias, a business consultant, officially announced her candidacy Dec. 5 at a news conference at Fancy Chicken Restaurant, 5207 Bergenline Ave., at the time making her the first announced challenger to Vega.
(Although Roque had announced his intention to run, he had not formally announced his candidacy at that time.)
She announced at the conference that, as mayor, she would seek to drive down unemployment rates, improve the school system by offering more educational resources, and open her own office for constituent services.
A Spanish-language press release put out that same day by The Committee to Elect Fior D’Aliza Frias decried the current state of affairs in the West New York administration.
“The general situation…in this moment is a complete disaster,” it said, “not only for the abuse by those charged with serving our community, but also the sense of sovereignty, despotism, and tyranny possessed by municipal persons.”
The committee also called into question the allocation of municipal finances and the effectiveness of the current administration of providing a safe environment for its citizens.
Later in December, Frias said no one should be worried about the potential shift to a Dominican mayor from Cuban incumbent Vega, during a NecioTV interview conducted in Spanish at the Fieston Tipico Navideño event in Paterson. Also in the clip, she sent out the following message to residents: “We do not need to feel oppressed or be afraid. You need to come out and vote to make a difference.”
Dr. Felix Roque
Dr. Felix Roque officially announced his candidacy the morning of Jan. 22 in his Together We Can headquarters, 214 60th St.
Roque addressed such town concerns as public safety and tax raises before hitting the streets with ward leaders, residents, and volunteers to greet and inform residents of his candidacy.
Roque is presently the director of pain management at St. Mary’s Hospital in Passaic, and is a colonel in the Army Reserves and commander of the 4215 CSH Hospital in Virginia.
Last summer, Roque filed a defamation lawsuit against Vega in the aftermath of the recall election.
Roque alleged that Vega had sent out a political mailer during the summer calling him a fraud and questioning the methods in which the recall was conducted.
Roque also took Vega to court last year over a questionable compensation package of more than $300,000 to Vega’s former confidential aide and longtime town employee Janet Passante.
Deanna Cullen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.