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Hunterdon County Democratic Chair Arlene Quiñones Perez, who single-handedly reignited the race for Democratic State Chairman by convening a secret meeting to consider an alternative to incumbent John Currie, may not control any votes in the race.
Six sources with knowledge of Hunterdon County Democratic politics told the New Jersey Globe that State Committeewomen Karen Becker and Sharon B. Ransavage will make their own decision in the race for State Chairman and cannot be delivered by Quiñones Perez.
Becker and Ransavage might wind up voting for Currie, but not necessarily because Quiñones Perez tells them too.
There is also a likely controversy over who gets to cast Hunterdon County’s votes in the race for State Chairman.
In 2017, the organization line for the two State Committee seats from Hunterdon went to Karen Becker and William J. Courtney. A third candidate, former Prosecutor Sharon Ransavage, ran off the line under the slogan “Progressive Hunterdon Democrats.”
Becker was the top vote-getter with 4,983 votes, and Ransavage received 3,869. They defeated Courtney, who finished third with 2,913.
Quiñones Perez sought to have just Becker and Courtney certified as winners, arguing that voters may select just one male and one female to serve on the State Committee.
But in Hunterdon County, candidates for party office run in gender-neutral elections. The ballot listed three candidates for two seats and instructed voters to “Vote for Two.”
Sample ballots going back to at least 2009 show that State Committee candidates in the last three gubernatorial elections have been elected exactly that way.
Quiñones Perez has not challenged that policy in the past, including races for Democratic County Committee in 2016 and 2018, while she was serving as county chair.
In 2018, Quiñones Perez ran for a county committee seat in her hometown of Alexandria on the organization line with another woman, Gwenna Cook.
As a compromise, Becker agreed to effectively share her post with Courtney. Each has one-half vote on the State Committee, even though Courtney lost the election.
Hunterdon Democratic insiders say that Courtney is a Quiñones Perez ally and likely to back Currie if the county chair asks him to.
Since local election officials never certified Courtney, who actually lost the election, it’s possible that his eligibility to vote in the State Chairman election later this year will be challenged.
New Jersey progressives have advocated gender-neutral county committee races.
Earlier this year, Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson sided with the Central Jersey Progressive Democrats and ordered the Middlesex County Clerk to create gender-neutral ballots in districts where two women were seeking two committee seats, and in a district where a non-binary candidate was running.
The 2017 State Committee fight was not the last time Quiñones Perez failed to see her preferred candidate win.
Last year, Quiñones Perez endorsed Linda Webber for the Democratic nomination for Congress in New Jersey’s 7th district, but Tom Malinowski won the Hunterdon County Democratic Convention by a vote of 96 to 42, a 59%-26% margin.
Becker endorsed Malinowski a few days before the convention.Hunterdon Sample Ballots 2019 and 2018