A Superior Court judge ordered Rockaway Township mayoral candidate Tucker Kelley to be included on the June 7 Republican primary ballot but refused to allow him to use the Morris GOP organization slogan just because he filed his petition first.
Stuart Minkowitz, the assignment judge, ruled that a statue requiring permission of the owner of the slogan “is unequivocal and without a shade of ambiguity” and said Kelley “does not have the right to use the slogan, whether it’s first in time or not.”
“The statute, I think, is clear. It says that of approval is required. It must be given. And it must be a written consent that’s given,” Minkowitz said. “In this particular instance, there really is no dispute of fact, regardless of whether Mr. Kelley filed it.”
The court decision Minkowitz referred to was written by New Jersey Superior Court Judge William Brennan, prior to Brennan’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Kelley had filed his petitions first, using the GOP organization slogan. But local Republicans, in a 28-4 vote, decided to support the incumbent, Joe Jackson.
But a decision by the Rockaway municipal clerk, Christina Clipperton, to reject Kelley’s petition and not certify him for a place on the primary ballot, was also in violation of state law, Minkowitz stated.
“The legislative purpose of election laws is to afford the electorate the maximum opportunity to vote on those whose names have put folding foot forward by nomination,” Minkowitz said. “The opportunity of voters to express their choice at a primary election should not be diminished.”
It’s not immediately clear why Clipperton knocked Kelley off the ballot completely, but the township attorney, John Iaciofano, has a personal interest in Jackson not facing a primary.
Minkowitz chastised Kelley’s attorney, Alan Zakin, for improperly filing the case in the chancery division and not marking it as an emergent matter and without an order to show cause.
“If not for an astute law clerk, it wouldn’t have gotten to me for a month,” he said.
Jackson became mayor earlier this year after the resignation of Republican Michael Puzio.