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Atlantic County Democratic Chairman Michael Suleiman
Atlantic County Democratic Chairman Michael Suleiman

Suleiman challenges petitions of rival Democratic clerk, county commission candidates

Atlantic County Democratic chairman wants Darlene Samuel, Robert Wesson knocked from the ballot

By Nikita Biryukov, April 09 2021 11:09 am

This article was updated at 3:49 p.m. to censor the name of an individual who signed the Samuel-Wesson petition under what they said were false pretenses. It was updated at the same time with comment from the individual.

Atlantic County Democratic Chairman Michael Suleiman challenged nominating petitions filed by two candidates seeking the Democratic nominations for Atlantic County Clerk and an at-large County Commission seat Friday.

Suleiman charged petitions filed by Atlantic County clerk candidate Darlene Samuel and county commissioner candidate Robert Wesson should not be accepted, charging state law does not allow candidates seeking different offices to file joint petitions and claiming their filings did not indicate which office the two were seeking.

“Here, the only indication of who is seeking what office is in the certificate of acceptance completed after signatures have been gathered and just prior to the submission of the petition,” the chairman said in a letter to County Clerk Ed McGettigan. “Thus, during circulation of the petition a signer had no indication whatsoever what office was being sought by which potential candidate.”

County Democrats are backing Egg Harbor City Mayor Lisa Jiampetti for McGettigan’s post. The incumbent is not seeking re-election. Celeste Fernandez is seeking an at-large seat on the County Commission.

Suleiman also said the candidates’ joint petitions should be tossed because it was impossible for voters to tell from the petitions which of the candidates was seeking which office, further arguing that some signatures should be eliminated because they signed more than one petition belonging to candidates for county clerk.

“A ‘[individual]’ signed the petitions of both Samuel/Wesson and county clerk candidate Mico Lucide. That signature therefore cannot count towards either candidate for county clerk,” Suleiman said. “However, since the Samuel petition was filed jointly with Wesson, can it count towards Wesson’s minimum signature requirement? The inability to enforce the single signature requirement of Title 19 militates against allowing a joint petition for different offices.”

After this article was published, the individual contacted the New Jersey Globe to say her signature was removed from petitions filed by Samuel and Wesson.

“She initially told me the petition was for an at-large city council candidate,” they said, referring to Samuel.

They said Atlantic County Deputy Clerk Michael Sommers told them there was no reason her signature would be disqualified from Lucide’s petition.

The chairman alleged further unspecified deficiencies with the challengers’ petitions, asking election officials to confirm each of the signatures they filed.

Former Atlantic City Council President Craig Callaway was the second person to sign Samuel and Wesson’s petitions. Wesson’s oath of allegiance was notarized by Pleasantville Councilwoman Carla Thomas, who is Callaway’s niece.

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