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Howell GOP council candidate Fred Gasior. (Photo: Howell Township Republicans).

Howell GOP candidates face challenge after lackadaisical petition drive

2 of 3 organization candidates might not qualify for June primary ballot, unless judge says they can retroactively file joint petitions

By David Wildstein, April 12 2022 1:46 pm

Howell Township Republicans might be headed to court after two of the three organization-backed candidates for township council appear to have fallen short of the 50 signatures required to get on the ballot in the municipality of 53,537 people.

According to the municipal clerk’s office, Fred Gasior filed with 50 signatures and at least one was invalidated.  Susan Fischer had 52 signers and also fell below 50.   Ian Nadel filed with 80 signatures, of which 58 turned out to be good.

Now Republicans are claiming that Gasior, Fischer and Nadel field jointly, even though only one candidate appeared on each petition and some individuals signed each one separately.  The acting municipal clerk is preparing to certify the petitions anyway.

Among the problems for the local GOP in what will be a race for control of local government is the presence of a fourth candidate, Michael Bernstein, who is running off the line.  If Gasior and Fischer don’t make the ballot, it might be an uphill climb for both two win as write-in candidates against Bernstein.

Tina Smilek told the municipal clerk that her signature should not be counted for all three candidates.

“My signature is only for Fred Gasior.  I do not now the other two,” Smilek said in an email to Donna Belton, a clerk’s office employee.  “He was the only candidate listed in the front of his petition as I see the others filled out the same.  Also, they only have a single name on top of the signature pages.”

But Belton says Howell will consider the three petitions as one joint petition.

“Even without your signature, there are still sufficient signatures for the candidates,” Belton said in a reply email.

Belton said Gasior, Fischer and Nadel “all indicated on the (petition) cover page that they were for several candidates.”

But a review of the petitions shows them to be individual.  Gasior, for example, signed the petitions of each of his running mates.  So did Fischer.

Republicans are also challenging Bernstein’s petitions.

The deadline for the certification of the petitions is April 14.  Court challenges to the municipal clerk’s ruling would come after that.

Howell has a Democratic mayor, and a 3-1 GOP council majority.  Two Republican council seats and one Democrat is up in 2022.

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