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Trenton City Council candidate Jenna Figueroa Kettenburg. (Photo: Jenna Kettenburg).

Trenton candidate asks judge to strike candidate’s use of Hispanic name from ballot

Damian Malave claims Jenna Figueroa Kettenberg is trying to appeal to Hispanic voters which make up two-third of the South Ward

By David Wildstein, December 06 2022 4:29 pm

Trenton city council candidates were back in court on Tuesday arguing over how a candidate is listed on the ballot, with Damian Malave arguing that his opponent is using the last names of her father and mother in a bid to win votes in a ward that is 67% Hispanic.

Malave says his opponent’s legal name is Jenna L. Kettenburg and wants a judge to prevent her from appearing on the ballot as Jenna Figueroa Kettenburg in next week’s Trenton South Ward city council runoff.

She appeared on the November ballot as Jenna Figueroa Kettenburg without opposition from Malave.

Jerry Dasti, Malave’s attorney, says that the candidate has never used the name Figueroa.

“It’s not her true name,” Dasti told Mercer County Assignment Judge Robert Lougy.   “It’s not a coincidence that about 65% of the people and the voters in the South ward are of Hispanic origin.  And what a surprise.  It’s not her legal name.  It’s not on the birth certificate.  It’s not on the divorce certificate.  It’s nowhere other than the fact now that it’s apparently on the ballot.”

According to Dasti, the candidate did not use Figueroa on her voter registration , mortgage and other legal documents.

“This is fraud.  That’s not her name,” Dasti said.  “Why doesn’t she use the name Superman?”

But Ted Maciag, an attorney for Figueroa Kettenburg, said the candidate has used Figueroa in the past.

“I think it’s a near frivolous argument,” he said.

Maciag pointed to other candidates being listed on the ballot by names other than their legal ones in the past, including Jimmy Carter, Mitt Romney and Tom Malinowski.  He also cited the names of United States Senators, Governors and U.S. Supreme Court Justices that who have served using both the maiden and married names.

Dasti proposed that Lougy move the South Ward runoff election to January in order to allow the court to decide.

The judge asked for a certification from Figueroa Kettenburg, with briefs due tomorrow, but it would seek unlikely that Lougy will put a stop to voting for the December 13 runoff.  Vote-by-mail ballots have been out since last week.

Lougy also turned down Malave’s request to invalidate runoff elections, saying that evidence exists that Trenton has been holding them since 1990.  Trenton voters approved a referendum ending municipal runoffs in 1982 but voted to reinstate them in 1987.

The New Jersey courts have established a precedent to allow women to use the name of their choice.  From 1999 to 2012, a woman served as an associate justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court under the name Virginia Long, even though she is registered to vote as Virginia Long Weiner.

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