The political comeback bid of Michael Wildes, the ambitious former Englewood mayor and Melania Trump’s immigration attorney, is on.
Wildes, who has spent the last decade looking for a chance to run for higher office, announced today that he wants to return to his old job. Wildes filed petitions to seek the Democratic nomination for mayor today and will make a formal announcement later.
He has already put $200,000 in personal funds into his campaign, according to his spokesman, Phil Swibinski.
“I’m running for Mayor because Englewood is a city in crisis, and I can’t stand by and watch residents continue to be punished by yet another major tax increase and financial mismanagement,” said Wildes, who served as Mayor from 2004 to 2010. “We must return to an effective local government that works for residents, and I believe that the key missing ingredient is strong leadership at the top. I owe so much to the City of Englewood, more than I could ever repay, and I once again feel called to serve the community by working to put our government back on the right track.”
He will run without the support of the Bergen County Democratic organization, who is backing Philip Meisner, the local party chairman, for mayor. Meisner has the backing of the retiring incumbent, Frank Huttle.
Wildes found himself in the center of a national media firestorm during the 2016 presidential campaign, when Trump was accused of illegally working as a model in the United States. He came to Trump’s defense, writing a letter for Trump to release publicly, attesting to her legal immigration status.
A year later, Wildes went on television to oppose Trump’s immigration ban.
Wildes is a prodigious fundraiser. He has nearly $800,000 in a federal campaign account that was originally formed in case Rep. Steve Rothman (D-Englewood) jumped into a U.S. Senate race. Seven years ago, Wildes gave away $60,000 in a state account formed if Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) decided to retire.
A former federal prosecutor, Wildes runs a top immigration law firm in Manhattan. He defeated then-State Sen. Byron Baer in a vote of the Englewood Democratic screening committee for mayor in 2004, after Paul Fader resigned to become Jim McGreevey’s chief counsel.
Wildes is expected to remind voters that during his two terms as mayor, he presided over a time of economic prosperity for Englewood. The Wildes campaign says he stabilized property taxes, reduced crime, and attracted new businesses to the city.