The printing of vote-by-mail ballots in Hillsborough will be delayed until a Superior Court Judge hears a challenge to the candidacy of Marian Fenwick-Schaffer for fire commissioner on Friday.
Fenwick-Shaffer’s husband, William Shaffer a 35-year-veteran of the Hillsborough Fire Department, died in the line of duty on July 14.
In court papers, Fenwick-Schaffer claims she was told the filing deadline was July 29. She delivered her petitions on July 27, only to learn that the deadline had been July 26.
“After the funeral, and after discussions with her husband’s fire house, (Fenwick-Shaffer) wanted to honor her husband’s memory and adhere to his wishes that she run for fire commissioner in the November election,” attorney David Singer said in documents filed with the court. “The statute…should not be read strictly regarding the deadline when there are extraordinary circumstances.”
The mailing of VBM ballots was due to commence of Saturday, but Judge Thomas C. Miller ordered the Somerset County Clerk to not issue ballots until after the hearing.
Court papers say that Fenwick-Shaffer and her husband had gathered the petitions signatures prior to his death.
If Fenwick-Shaffer isn’t able to get on the ballot, it will leave Peter Michael Carone and Patrick Buckley unopposed for two fire commissioner seats in the November 3 election.
But she didn’t file a challenge to the rejection of her nominating petitions until August 13 and did not file a motion for an order to show cause until September 9. The statutory deadline to file objections to fire district election petitions was July 30.
The 62-year-old Fenwick-Shaffer mother, Marina Fenwick, was the first woman to serve as mayor of Hillsborough mayor when she took office in the 1970s.
Her late husband was the assistant fire chief of Hillsborough’s Fire Company #2. He suffered a medical emergency after putting out a car fire.
While Fenwick-Shaffer and her late husband were Republican county committee members, fire commissioner elections are not partisan. Singer’s law partner is Maureen Vella, a Democrat who came within 534 votes of ousting then-Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli in 2015 and is now a municipal court judge in Franklin.
She lost a bid for fire commissioner in 2019.
Hillsborough is the third-largest municipality in Somerset County.