One day after New Jersey's governor called for him to step aside, Paterson Councilman-elect Alex Mendez said the "politically powerful" were trying to interfere with the will of Hispanic voters.
In a statement Saturday, Mendez said the criminal charges alleging he had engaged in voter fraud "...are just desperate attempts to suppress the Hispanic vote in Paterson."
In his statement, Mendez suggests the charges filed by State Attorney General Grubir Grewal were politically motivated to help his rival Mayor Andre Sayegh. Mendez went on to accuse the mayor of supporting the rich "...at the expense of our citizens."
"It is also no surprise the governor, a close ally of the mayor, would support his attempt to keep business as usual," Mendez said.
Mendez's statement comes after he was hit with half a dozen election-fraud-related charges that carry a minimum of three years in prison if convicted.
Paterson's recent vote-by-mail election was plagued by election fraud allegations ranging from vote stealing to bundling to submitting bogus voter registrations.
Attorney General Grewal called Mendez and Council Vice-President Michael Jackson "criminals" after filing the election fraud charges against both politicians on Thursday.
For weeks, residents and community leaders in Paterson were demanding an investigation into the widespread voting fraud allegations - with many residents alleging they have been disenfranchised amid the alleged vote stealing schemes.
The head of the local NAACP chapter said the alleged corruption was so widespread, the election results should be thrown out and a new election ordered.
Governor Murphy called for Mendez and Jackson to step aside on Friday after criminal charges were filed.
"Based on these accusations, Council Vice President Jackson and Councilmember-elect Mendez must step aside as this investigation progresses," Murphy said. "Anything else undermines the public's sacred trust in democracy."
In addition to Grewal charging the two elected Paterson politicians, he also charged two others who worked on campaigns. That investigation is ongoing.
"We will not allow a small number of criminals to undermine the public's confidence in our democratic process," Grewal said when he announced the charges Thursday.
Mendez and Jackson both deny any wrongdoing and say they still plan to take office on July 1.
Mendez's opponent, longtime Councilman Bill McKoy went to court again seeking an injunction to keep Mendez from taking office. McKoy's attorney Scott Salmon said," We believe these charges will corroborate our allegations that this election was stolen. We hope the New Jersey Attorney General's office will join in our request for Mr. Mendez to be prevented from being sworn in, as well as our request for a new election."
McKoy said he wants a new, fair election so voters can decide.
"If Mr. Jackson and Mr. Mendez are allowed to be sworn in, they will directly benefit from the fraud of which they are accused, which will make a mockery of the system that many have fought and died to protect. Patersonians deserve better," McKoy said.
In his statement, Mendez again alleged Paterson Police - controlled by Mayor Sayegh - were improperly used in connection with the voter fraud investigation. Sources familiar with the case said Spanish speaking police officers were used at the request of the attorney general's office to assist investigators with translation services when interviewing Spanish speaking residents about missing or stolen ballots.