Burlington County Democrats blew past the deadline to fill a vacancy on the Board of Commissioners, a mistake that could leave the seat empty until next year unless a judge finds the statute to be fungible.
The Democratic county committee had 35 days to replace County Commissioner Linda Hynes, who resigned her seat in January to become a Superior Court Judge, but Burlington County Democratic Chairman Joe Andl never scheduled a special election convention to fill the vacancy.
Hynes was sworn in to her judgeship on January 15, which means Democrats had until February 19 at the latest to replace her. The Senate confirmed her nomination on January 10 and the Burlington County Board of Commissioners did not list Hynes on a roll call tally of their January 12 meeting.
Hynes seat is up in November and Burlington County Democrats appear to have settled on Allison Eckel, a member of the Lenape Regional High School Board of Education and a 2021 Assembly candidate, as their candidate. Eckel was the unanimous recommendation of a Democratic screening committee, the New Jersey Globe has learned, although the decision to back her has not been publicly announced.
Now Eckel, who was expected to fill Hynes’ unexpired term, will have to beat Republican Jeff Fortune, a former Moorestown school board member, to become a county commissioner.
Andl has some familiarity with special election conventions.
In September 2018, Democrat George Youngkin dropped out of the race for Burlington County Freeholder – the post is now called county commissioner – but his name remained on the ballot and he wound up winning in the Democratic wave election that year. He was sworn in on January 1, 2019 and resigned minutes later.
Andl called a special election convention 18 days later, which Democratic county committee members picked Delran Councilman Daniel O’Connell as Youngkin’s replacement.
Vacancies for most offices in partisan elections are filled by the party that previously won the last election. Until 1989, vacancies in certain offices necessitated special elections.
In 2013, Gov. Chris Christie called an October special election for U.S. Senate after Frank R. Lautenberg died in office.
Andl did not immediately respond to a text message at 8:09 PM.