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Burlington County Democratic Chairman Joe Andl. (Photo: Burlington Democrats).

Burlington GOP says Democrats can’t legally fill empty county commissioner seat

By David Wildstein, March 23 2022 6:00 pm

Republicans say  Burlington County Democratic Chairman Joe Andl missed the deadline to fill a county commissioner vacancy and that any attempt to appoint someone now would be challenged in court.

New Jersey law gave Democrats 35 days to replace Linda Hynes, who resigned to become a Superior Court Judge.  But Andl never held a special election convention and blew past the February 19 deadline.

“Despite your committee failing to fill the seat and allowing the deadline to expire, it is our understanding that the Burlington County Democratic Committee may be attempting to fill the vacant seat for the remainder of the year at its upcoming County Convention,” said Chris Dasti, an attorney for the Burlington GOP, in a letter to Andl and County Clerk Joanne Schwartz.  “Any attempt by the Burlington County Democratic Committee to submit a name to the Burlington County Clerk for the unexpired term of the vacant seat would be illegal.”

The New Jersey Senate confirmed Hynes’ nomination to the bench during the legislature’s lame duck session on January 10, perhaps to avoid any problem with signoff by the new Republican senator from Burlington County, Jean Stanfield (R-Westhampton).  Stanfield took office on January 11 and would have had senatorial courtesy over Hynes.

Democrats picked Allison Eckel, a member of the Lenape Regional High School Board of Education and a 2021 Assembly candidate, as their candidate for county commissioner.  Republicans are supporting former Moorestown school board member Jeff Fortune for the seat.

It’s not clear whether Andl intentionally or accidentally missed the deadline, although the New Jersey Globe has learned that the county chairman has told some Democrats that he knowingly opted not to fill the seat to protect Eckel from voting on the county  budget.

Andl, the New Jersey Globe has confirmed, has told some party leaders that he can still fill the vacancy since the other four Democrats on the Board of Commissioners will allow Eckel to be seated at a later date.

Andl has not returned calls seeking comment.

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