The Field Is Set: Akhtaruzzaman, Goow, Torres and Two New Bengali Candidates to Vie for 2nd Ward Seat
Friday, September 28, 2012 • 7:28pm
PATERSON, NJ – Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, Aslon Goow and Sonia Torres - the top three voter-getters last May - may be doing battle again in the 2nd Ward special election scheduled for November 6.
But the November race will offer a new twist – two other members of the Bengali community are among five candidates who filed nominating petitions by Friday’s 6 pm deadline. The two newcomers to the race are Zalal Uddin and Maidul Islam, both of whom said they had supported Akhtaruzzaman in May.
Akhtaruzzaman won that election with overwhelming support from the Bengali community and Uddin and Islam could siphon some of those votes from him.
“Initially last election our community wanted me to run, but I wasn’t ready,’’ said Islam, a Passaic County sheriff’s officer. “I’m a good friend of Mohammed’s, but unfortunately, he lied to everybody. So now I’m the candidate of the Bengali community.’’
“The Bangladeshi community believes everybody has the right to run,’’ said Uddin when asked why he decided to run against Akhtaruzzaman this time.
Akhtaruzzaman, who was the first Bengali elected to public office in North Jersey, did not respond to a phone message seeking his input for this story. Henry Sosa, who was his campaign manager last spring, expressed doubts about Islam’s claim to being the Bengali candidate. “It sounds like spin to me,’’ Sosa said.
Last Sunday, Sosa said he attended a meeting of about 100 members of the Bengali community, including many elders, to discuss the upcoming 2nd Ward election. “At that meeting, he had no support,’’ Sosa said of Islam.
The special election became necessary when Goow prevailed in a lawsuit that resulted in Akhtaruzzaman’s May victory being nullified on the grounds that his voter registration was invalid.
The judge’s ruling in that case did not say whether Akhtaruzzaman would be eligible to run in the special election. Goow said he would confer with his lawyer, Michael DeMarco, on whether to file a challenge to Akhtaruzzaman’s candidacy.
“I was under the impression that he could not run,’’ said Goow. “It does not seem right for a judge to remove someone from that position and then to allow them to run again.’’
Akhtaruzzaman defeated Goow, a 12-year incumbent, by almost 500 votes in May. Torres finished third, a little more than 100 votes behind Goow.
“I think the issues are clear,’’ said Torres, mentioning taxes, crime, economic development and recreation programs as high on the list. “We’ll have the same platform as we had before.’’
Candidates have until Tuesday to file objections to their opponents’ petitions and City Clerk Jane Williams-Warren is scheduled to certify the candidates’ eligibility next Friday.
There remains an element of doubt as to whether the special election will be held. In an appeal filed this week, Akhtaruzzaman is asking Superior Court Judge to grant a stay on his original ruling until the appeal is decided, a move that would return Akhtaruzzaman to the seat in the meantime.
Three people who picked up petitions ended up not filing them – Joseph Atallo, Lois Dais-Kelley and Taj Uddin.