A Passaic County Judge will issue a ruling tomorrow on challenges to the petitions of seven Rockaway Republican county committee candidates whose votes could affect the June election for Morris County Republican Chairman.
Attorneys for the Morris County Clerk, Rockaway Township Clerk and county committee candidate Vincent La Iacona III, who filed the challenges, on Wednesday made arguments before Passaic County Superior Court Judge Ernest Caposela.
Challenges against four of the candidates – Catherine Dachisen, Ingrid Sceusi, Sean Connolly and Rockaway Republican Club president Raymond Tahan – claimed their petitions lacked the proper number of signatures required by state law.
La Iacona is running against Tahan in Ward 6, District 3.
In New Jersey, the minimum number of petition signatures required to run for county committee is set at no less than 5% of the total votes cast in the most recent State Assembly primary district – no less than one, but no more than 10.
Alan Zakin, the county clerk’s attorney, argued that the county committee office was purely political and thus required a “compelling state interest” for court interference. Christopher Corsini, La Iacona’s attorney, countered by pointing out the committees could decide who fills seats in the legislature in case of a vacancy in the middle of a term.
The responsibility, as well as the fact that the petition procedures for the committees are laid out in state election law, was enough to give the court purview to hear and rule over the case, Caposela ruled. He also ruled that La Iacona, as a resident of Rockaway Township, had grounds to file the challenges.
Caposela’s decision on the four petitions that Corsini says did not meet the signature requirements, will be based on whether or not the statutory requirements are trumped by a memo sent by Laura Roberts, the elections manager at the Morris County Clerk’s office, that advised municipal clerks the minimum number of signatures for Republican committee candidates is five.
The remaining three petitions, those filed by Paul Waldeck, Susanne Jackson and Joseph Jackson, face challenges on technical deficiencies.
Waldeck’s petition circulator did not sign an affidavit confirming that they were the one circulating the petition, while the Jacksons both did not properly execute their oaths.
“These are unquestionably made by the respective candidates,” said Rockaway Township attorney John Iaciafano, adding that it was clear that the candidates intended to run for this office and asking whether or not it was right to keep them off the ballot because of “careless, inexperienced, or received bad advice.”
The candidates, Iaciafano said, suffered from a case of bad luck. Acting Rockaway Township Clerk Marcy Gianattasio was in Trenton taking the clerk exam on April 11, which was scheduled for the same day that petitions were due to be certified. Because of this and understaffing at the clerk’s office, the candidates were never notified of the technical errors.
Corsini said he would have happily withdrawn the challenges if the technical deficiencies had been corrected within the three-day correction period, but Iaciafano said the errors had not been fixed.
The Judge will rule on whether or not the circumstances demand making an exception for the candidates.
The Judge plans to issue his ruling tomorrow morning, before Deputy County Clerk John Wojtaszek has to send ballots off to the printer. Clerks around the state must begin mailing mail-in ballots for June’s primary on Saturday.
The case was moved to Passaic County because one of the candidates whose petition is being challenged is the wife of a Superior Court Judge who sits in Morris.