Two House challengers filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Tahesha Way and a handful of county clerks over statutes requiring candidates to get permission from individuals or incorporated entities to named in campaign slogans.
Rutgers University Law professor Eugene Mazo, who is running against Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (D-Newark) in New Jersey’s 10th district, filed the suit against way after being told they could not use slogans that referred to people or organizations without the named entity’s permission.
Also on the lawsuit is shadowy perennial candidate McCormick attempted to run under the slogans “Not Me, Us” and “Bernie Sanders betrayed the NJ revolution” but was waylaid because she had not received permission from Sanders or the owners of the other slogan.
Mazo attempted to run under the slogans “Essex County Democratic Committee, Inc.,” “Hudson County Democratic Organization” and “Regular Democratic Organization of Union County” but was blocked because the county organizations are backing Payne.
The two longshot candidates claim the slogan restrictions violate the first amendment by limiting speech on the basis of content.
“I have studied American democracy as a scholar, a voter, and now as a political candidate. And what I can tell you is that New Jersey’s ballot restrictions are unconstitutional. Simply put, they violate the First Amendment. My goal in filing this lawsuit is to create an equal playing field for candidates of diverse political views who believe, as I do, that free speech is sacred,” Mazo said. “Under our Constitution, New Jersey has no right to regulate what a political candidate can say to his or her voters.”
Political slogans have been the subject of no small degree of political jockeying over the years.
In 2018, then-Bergen GOP chairman Paul DiGaetano and Essex GOP chairman Al Barlas feuded over the slogan “Republicans for Responsible Government.” Barlas won.
Bergen County Republicans had long used the slogan for candidates running on the party line, but Barlas registered the trademark after the Bergen chairman allowed it to lapse.
Earlier this year, a Camden County judge blocked progressive activist Sue Altman from using a slogan long held by the county’s Democratic organization.
Altman filed incorporation papers with the state that gave her control of the “Camden County Democrat Committee, Inc.” slogan, which Camden Democrats allowed to lapse last year, but the judge ultimately sided with the party organization.
Mazo and McCormick filed their suit in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey’s Newark Division.