Superior Court Estela De La Cruz today ordered new ballots to be printed with Dan Pronti, a councilman, as the Republican candidate for mayor of North Arlington.
The decision came after local Republicans complied with her order to hold an emergency meeting to formally vote on a replacement candidate for Mayor Joseph Bianchi, who died on October 10 at age 77.
De La Cruz ruled yesterday that the North Arlington Republicans never held a meeting to pick a new candidate for mayor, but gave them until 11 AM tomorrow to select a new candidate.
On Friday, a state appellate court judge invalidated Judge Robert Wilson’s order to allow Republicans to switch their candidates. Wilson had accepted North Arlington Republican Municipal Chairman John Bratowicz’s claim that he held a county committee meeting to pick Councilman Dan Pronti as a replacement candidate, rejecting an affidavit from vice chair Barbara Kaiser saying that no meeting was held.
De La Cruz took over the case from Wilson on Monday.
Subpoenas were issued to all twenty members of the Republican county committee.
Vote-by-mail ballots had already been mailed, and some voters had already cast their votes using a ballot that had Bianchi’s name. Those voters will be sent a new ballot that will include Pronti’s name.
Pronti will now face another councilman, Mark Yampaglia in the general election.
“When Mayor Bianchi passed, it was important to temporarily suspend my campaign in deference to his family, friends and the residents of North Arlington. Since his passing there has been a series of legal actions that I was not a party to. It seems now those legal issues have been resolved and we welcome those directives by the court,” Yampaglia said in a statement released on Tuesday. “What is important now is that the remainder of this campaign be positive, respectful and informative so that voters can make the best choice as to which ticket best exemplifies the good character, judgment and memory of Mayor Bianchi. My long tenure and public service of being a bipartisan problem solver who gets things done no matter who gets the credit is the kind of unique leadership we need at this moment, and at this time. I welcome my colleague Councilman Dan Pronti to the race and may the best man win.”
Al Grannel, a former Democratic councilman, is also in the race as an independent.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 3:48 PM.