New Jersey borough elects 2nd Filipino-American mayor

Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Nov 07 2019 12:10 AM

BERGENFIELD, New Jersey - Trump-style mudslinging from incumbent Republican Mayor Norman Schmelz did not stop Filipino-American candidate Arvin Amatorio from becoming the next mayor of Bergenfield, New Jersey on Tuesday's election.

Democratic council president Arvin Amatorio unseated Schmelz by at least 166 votes, making him the second Filipino-American to win as mayor of Bergenfield borough, home to more than 5,000 Filipinos.

"This is a great night for Bergenfield because of you... despite the malicious attack, despite the negativity that has been thrown to us we kept the fight positive," Amatorio told his supporters.

Just four days before the elections, Schmelz sent out a misleading press release using the words "alleges" and "guilty" in its title at the same time.

The said press release made it appear that Amatorio is guilty of violating a trafficking victims' protection act, when all there is was a motion to add his name in a lawsuit where he happened to be the immigration lawyer for the victim.

Another misleading accusation was that Amatorio allegedly did not attend a law school accredited by the American Bar Association, therefore he is not licensed to practice law in New Jersey.

"I’m very happy people did not believe those lies and it’s a vindication that all those things that were thrown against me are not true, people just didn’t believe that," he said.

Robert Rivas, who served as the first Filipino-American mayor of Bergenfield from 2000 to 2002, said he too was a victim of false accusations in his 2003 reelection bid. At that time, he was accused of favoring Filipinos and that he was going to bring Filipino police from the Philippines to patrol Bergenfield.

"We’ll have the good people remain in control not these racist, miserable, sad people who tried to win elections by tearing down the other side," Rivas said.

Another Filipino-American, Salvador Deauna, was also reelected councilman on Tuesday's elections with more than 3,000 votes.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy congratulated Amatorio for his victory through a post on Twitter.

Amatorio will begin his work as mayor in January.