A slate of five candidates for West New York Commissioner announced their candidacies today in a bid to unseat Mayor Felix Roque in the May non-partisan municipal elections.
The “New Beginnings West New York” ticket includes three incumbents – Gabriel Rodriguez, Cosmo Cirillo and Margarita Guzman. They will be joined by former school trustee Victor Barrera and Yoleisy Yanez, a local middle school teacher.
Roque told the New Jersey Globe that he intends to seek re-election to a third term and is in the process of assembling his own slate. He ran with Rodriguez, Cirillo and Guzman in 2015.
West New York mayors are elected by the five commissioners after the election. The top vote-getter traditionally gets that post, although that is not an ironclad rule.
Both Rodriguez and Cirillo have expressed strong interest in becoming mayor. That could create an internal contest between the two as they run as a team.
It could also be a small proxy skirmish between two allies: Rep. Albio Sires, a former West New York mayor, and State Sen. Nicholas Sacco, the mayor of adjacent North Bergen.
Rodriguez, the business accounting manager for the West New York Board of Education, is close to Sires and formerly worked on his congressional staff.
Cirillo is allied with Sacco, and worked on the staffs of Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez (D-West New York) and former Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto.
Roque was part of the Hudson County Democratic Warette of 2018, backing an unsuccessful move to withdraw party support for the 2019 re-election of Hudson County Executive Thomas DeGise.
In retaliation, Rodriguez, Cirillo and Guzman – all DeGise supporters – dumped Roque ally Susan Colarcurcio from her post as director of Revenue and Finance and moved to the less influential post as director of Public Works.
Colarcurcio has not yet announced if she will seek re-election.
Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, one of the leaders of the Dump DeGise movement, had also threatened a 2018 primary challenge against Sires. That led to a Sires taking a hands-on approach to local politics.
In the June primary, the Sires faction of the West New York Democratic Party swept 48 contested races for county committee seats against a slate backed by Roque.
Democratic Municipal Chairman Jonathan Castañeda, who had been Roque’s chief of staff before flipping to Sires, was re-elected municipal chairman by a 50-2 vote.
Castañeda, now the chief of staff to the director of the Hudson County Correctional Facility, is now running the New Beginnings West New York campaign.
The slate will hold their kickoff on Friday evening.
The Cuban-born Roque, a local physician and retired U.S. Army colonel, defeated incumbent Sal Vega in 2911.