The deadline for independent candidates to file for the November 2 general election is at 4 PM on June 8, the date of the primary election.
For decades, independents had to file at the same time Democrats and Republicans filed for the June primary election, but that changed around 1997 when the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a later deadline.
The precedent cited was a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down early filing deadlines for independents that came after Rep. John B. Anderson (R-Illinois) dropped his bid for the 1980 Republican presidential nomination and sought to run as an independent in all 50 states. Some of the filing deadlines had already passed, forcing Anderson to mount legal challenges.
With 18 days left until the filing deadline, only one independent has submitted petitions to run for governor as an independent: Joanne Kuniansky of the Socialist Workers Party filed 1,517 signatures on Thursday, 717 more than she needed.
The relative ease of gaining ballot access has frequently led to a sometimes large number of independent gubernatorial candidates.
In 1993, 13 independents combined for 52,386 votes (2.4%) in a race where Christine Todd Whitman unseated Gov. Jim Florio by 26,093. The most recognizable independent in that race, former State Sen. Alene Ammond (D-Cherry Hill), finished eight with just 3,330 votes statewide.
Independents have qualified for public matching funds – and a seat at the official gubernatorial debates – just twice: in 2013, when former state Commissioner of Environmental Protection Christopher Daggett won just 6% and the Star-Ledger endorsement against Gov. Jon Corzine and Republican Chris Christie; and in 1997, when Libertarian Murray Sabrin took 4.7% of the vote.
In that race, Whitman defeated then-State Sen. James E. McGreevey (D-Woodbridge) by 25,426 votes, 47%-46%. Sabrin and conservative Richard Pezzullo received a combined 149,078 votes.
Had just half of the voters who preferred a candidate an independent to the right of Whitman been retained by the Republicans, her margin might have been closer to 100,000 against McGreevey – something that potentially altered the state’s political trajectory.
Only one sitting officeholder has run for governor as an independent.
After legislative redistricting in 2001 moved State Sen. Bill Schluter (R-Pennington) out of the staunchly Republican 23rd district and sought force him into a race against State Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Lawrence) in the heavily Democratic 15th, Schluter opted to run for governor as an independent. He received just 1% of the vote.
Kuniansky is one of five announced independent candidates.
“In the face of persistent joblessness I have found widespread support for the demand for thirty hours work for forty hours pay to share the available work and for workers to build our own political party, a labor party on the road towards establishing a workers and farmers government,” said Kuniansky, a Walmart deli worker.
Perennial Green Party candidate Madelyn Hoffman is planning her 7th run for public office. She’s never broken the 1% mark since her first campaign in 1996.
Three former others are also in the race – if they file nominating petitions: David Winkler, a veteran who has founded the Patriot Party; Libertarian Gregg Mele; and Justin Maldonado, who briefly ran for mayor of Peth Amboy last year.
Just one independent candidate has filed for State Senate so far: Lacey school board member Regina Discenza, who wants to take on State Sen. Christopher Connors (R-Lacey) in the 9th district.
In the 29th district, where no Republicans filed, independent Debra Salters is challenging Assemblywomen Eliana Pintor-Marin (D-Newark) and Shanique Speight (D-Newark). Salters became interested in government eight years ago when he fought Newark city officials over access to city relief funding after he mother’s apartment was destroyed by a fire.
Anderson had no trouble getting on the ballot in New Jersey in 1980. He won 8% of the vote in the general election, where Ronald Reagan carried New Jersey by a 52%-39% margin over Jimmy Carter.