After spending more than a year in prison for his role in a racketeering scheme, former Bergen County Democratic chairman Joseph Ferriero is now actively involved in the re-election campaign of West New York mayor Felix Roque.
Eleven different sources have verified Ferriero’s role in the West New York race, where some say he is the de facto general consultant participating in the field operation and the direct mail strategies.
Roque says Ferriero in not part of his campaign.
“I’ve heard of the guy. I know his reputation, but I really don’t have a relationship with the guy,” Roque said. “I would love to meet him.”
Ferriero is working closely with Gerry Lange, a former West New York commissioner and Hudson County freeholder, several of the sources confirmed. Lange has been on the outs with Hudson County Democrats for more than a decade.
Roque acknowledged that Lange attended his recent fundraiser, but denied that he has any formal role in his campaign for a third term.
Hudson County View reported last year that Manny Diaz, once a powerful Hudson County insider who went to prison for conspiring to sell $2 million worth of cocaine, now has a $110,000-a-year job as a confidential aide to Roque.
Also reportedly involved in the Roque campaign is Rene Abreu, a former real estate developer who was convicted of bank and mortgage fraud charges in 2004. He was released from prison in 2012.
Lange and Abreu were once political allies of Rep. Albio Sires when he was the West New York mayor and Assembly Speaker, but that relationship has long deteriorated. Sires is now a key supporter of the New Beginnings West New York slate that is seeking to oust Roque.
Roque needed to replace key members of his team who had defected to his opponents.
Jonathan Castañeda, Roque’s former chief of staff and the West New York Democratic municipal chairman, is now running the rival New Beginnings campaign that includes three former Roque running mates: Gabriel Rodriguez, Cosmo Cirillo, and Margarita Guzman.
Roque’s consultant in his 2011 and 2015 campaigns, Pablo Fonseca, is also working against the mayor’s re-election.
Ferriero was one of the most powerful political insiders in the state from the late 1990s until 2009, when he resigned four months after his indictment on eight counts of influence peddling.
Even his opponents recognize Ferriero’s strong campaign skills, honed during a long career that began when he won a borough council seat in Dumont at age 20 in 1977.
The 61-year-old Ferriero was elected county chairman in 1998 when Republicans had a county executive and a 7-0 majority on the freeholder board. Within four years, Bergen had a Democratic county executive and a majority on the freeholder board and had flipped a State Senate seat and two Assembly seats.