Republicans were unsuccessful in their efforts to kick 1st legislative district Democratic candidate Charles Laspata off the ballot today, failing to convince Administrative Law Judge William Cooper that enough of Laspata’s petition signatures were invalid to push him below the 100-signature threshold.
Laspata, a political newcomer and union electrician from Millville, had filed for the State Senate in his South Jersey district with just 115 signatures, a risky number given how many different ways a signature could be tossed for deficiencies. The Republican State Committee subsequently filed a petition challenge, arguing that 21 of Laspata’s signatures were invalid.
But a number of the individual challenges, which were argued by Republican attorney Jason Sena, were over minor technicalities like small signature variations. Cooper sided with Laspata on many of these more finicky objections; once the number of accepted signatures reached six out of 21, Sena withdrew the challenge, in recognition of the fact that it was mathematically impossible to get Laspata below 100.
“Based upon the decisions rendered so far on our petition challenges … mathematically, the odds are against us,” Sena said.
That leaves Laspata uncontested in the Democratic primary to take on State Sen. Michael Testa (R-Vineland). He’ll be joined on the Democratic ticket by Assembly candidates Damita White-Morris and Eddie Bonner.
Less than four years ago, the 1st district – which covers Cape May County and parts of Cumberland and Atlantic Counties – was held by a trio of Democratic legislators. But after Testa and his slate won in 2019, Democratic hopes in the district quickly faded, and few expect Laspata or his running mates to put up a serious challenge this year.