Editor’s note: this story was updated to reflect the Division of Elections’ announcement on Wednesday that Forchion was not on their list of candidates released after Tuesday’s filing deadline.
Gov. Phil Murphy now has a challenger who will argue that he hasn’t don’t enough to legalize marijuana and that the policy he backed doesn’t help communities of color.
Edward Forchion, known as “NJ Weedman,” filed as an independent candidate for governor on Tuesday, according to the New Jersey Division of Elections.
His filing, presumably done before yesterday’s 4 PM deadline, was not disclosed to the public until 10 AM on Wednesday. It’s not immediately clear how a petition filed in the afternoon didn’t make a list of candidates released by the state last night.
This will be Forchion’s 14th bid for public office and his second run for governor. He finished sixth in a field of ten candidates in 2005, winning 9, 136 votes (0.4%) in his race against Jon Corzine.
Despite the relative ease of getting 800 signatures, just four independent candidates have filed to take on Murphy and Republican Jack Ciattarelli in the November 2 general election. That’s the smallest number since 1989, when four independents also sought the governorship.
Libertarian Party candidate Gregg Mele also filed on Tuesday – the last day to get on the ballot. He joins Joanne Kuniansky of the Socialist Workers Party and perennial Green Party nominee Madelyn Hoffman, who is making her 7th bid for public office.
Despite some noise on social media, Patriot Party founder David Winkler never filed his nominating petitions. Neither did Justin Maldonado, who announced his independent candidacy last year.
Some gubernatorial ballots have included a massive number of independents. The record was 17 in 1993, followed by 14 in 1977 and 11 in 1981.
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.
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.
Ammond wasn’t the only former elected official to mount an independent campaign for governor. Reinhardt Metzger, who served one term as an assemblyman from Essex County in the early 1960s, won about one-quarter of one-percent as a conservative candidate in 1961.
Three independents filed for the State Senate: Regina Discenza in the 9th, Glenn Coley in the 37th, and Libertarian James Tosone in the 39th. Independent candidates filed for the State Assembly in the 1st, 4th, 11th, 14th, 15th, 18th, 29th, 34th, and 37th districts.
Rev. Clenard Childress is making his 10th bid for a State Assembly seat in the 34th district. He’s run twice as a Democrat and once as a Republican.
The record for an independent candidate in New Jersey might be held by Herbert Shaw, a North Bergen man who ran for office more than 50 times without winning before his death in 2016. His slogan: “Politicians Are Crooks.”