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Superior Court Judge Stuart Minkowitz, the Morris County assignment judge. (Photo: New Jersey Globe.)

Judge dismisses Rockaway councilman’s claim that opponent was improperly placed on GOP line

Minkowitz chastises official for waiting 18 days to file lawsuit

By David Wildstein, May 21 2021 5:09 pm

Superior Court Judge Stuart Minkowitz today dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Rockaway councilman who alleged that the Morris Republican organization violated its own bylaws by awarding the organization line to his primary opponent.

The GOP incumbent, Tucker Kelley, claimed that rival Rachael Brookes should not have been placed on the brand-new Morris organization line.

Minkowitz said that Kelley became aware that Brookes had been put on the line on April 30 but didn’t file his complaint until May 18 – after ballots and been printed and mailed and after votes had already been cast.

“For him to wait as long as he did to bring an action is truly unconscionable and placed the public officials, the interested parties and the voters in untenable positions,” Minkowitz said.

The judge said that Kelley sought to “nullify votes already to cast to disenfranchise voters.”

“He sat on his rights until such time as his action would severely prejudice the voters, other public officials and interested parties, including other candidates for public office,” said Minkowitz.

Kelley’s attorney, Alan Zakin, said that the party’s bylaws provide processes for awarding the line — a preferential ballot position that can put down-ballot candidates in a column with those running for governor or Congress, for example — to county, state and federal candidates.

They don’t lay out a procedure for awarding municipal candidates the line, Zakin said.

But Minkowitz said that Zakin failed to offer any evidence and didn’t properly name individuals involved.

Morris County Republican Chairwoman Laura Ali on April 7 submitted a letter to County Clerk Ann Grossi authorizing local candidates running under the MCRC’s slogan be placed on the county line.

Kelley says the chairwoman overstepped her authority by sending that letter.

Kathy Quinn, Rockaway Republicans’ corresponding secretary, sent letters to Grossi the same day asking Rachael Brookes, who is running for Kelly’s council seat, and Adam Salberg, who is running for the incumbent’s post on the Rockaway Township Republican County Committee, be placed on the line.

Kelley’s suit charges Republican Councilman Jack Quinn on April 15 sent an email saying he was told he had to change his slogan so he could appear on the line. Ward 3 Councilman Doug Brookes was also placed on the line. Kelley’s filing said Doug Brookes did not ask for the preferential ballots position.

He asked the court to stop the printing of additional mail-in and machine ballots and order new ballots printed with him and Rachael Brookes on the same line. The deadline to prepare ballots for printing was April 19. Mail-in ballots started going out on April 24.

In a separate count, Kelley alleges a Feb. 6 vote on adopting a Republican line in Morris was invalid because there was not a verified quorum during the remote convention, though the suit does not ask the courts to annul the vote adopting a line.

Zakin, who argued in favor of a suit filed by former Morris County Freeholders David Scapicchio and John Sette, who opposed the county’s adoption of a line.

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