The race for the Republican nomination to oust U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez may become leaner soon, as two candidates have received challenges that could invalidate enough signatures on their nominating petitions to drop them below the 1,000-signature threshold needed to compete in the June primary.
The nominating petitions of Dana Wefer, former chairwoman of the Hoboken Housing Authority, and Antonio Sabas, who unsuccessfully ran as an independent against U.S. Sen. Cory Booker in 2014, received multiple challenges on Friday.
The earlier challenges – filed by Lisa LoBiondo, director of Morris County for the Organization for Economic Growth, a political action committee founded last December by former assembly candidate Joe Caruso – allege that a number of the signatures on Wefer and Sabas’s petitions are invalid because the signatories were registered Democrats or not registered to vote, among other reasons.
Shortly before 5 p.m. on Friday, U.S. Senate candidate Brian Goldberg filed an additional challenge against each of the candidates.
LoBiondo and Goldberg’s challenges both contest more than 100 of Wefer’s 1,026 signatures and would need relatively few successes to knock the Senate hopeful out of the race.
Wefer, who had yet to be notified of the challenges by the state Division of Elections, said that she was confident in her validity of the signatures on her petition but feared that she might be pushed below the threshold by technicalities.
“I know that almost all of my signatures were gotten through canvassing, so I’m very confident in the fact that the petition is tight,” Wefer said. “The thing is this, if it comes down to whether somebody’s printed name is legible and things like that, it’s hard to say.”
Wefer said she expected a challenge to her petitions, but she did not expect the challenge to be filed just hours before Friday’s filing deadline.
Sabas, who had also not yet been notified by the Division of Elections, seemed confused by the challenge, at first believing LoBiondo was a candidate. LoBiondo challenged more than 350 of 1090 the signatures on Sabas’s petitions, while Goldberg challenged 140, though he said that he and his team only checked a portion of Sabas’s petitions.
“They can go right ahead and do what they have to do. This is my third time at it, so that’s no reaction from me, they can go right ahead,” Sabas said. “What they do, that’s their business. We’ll just keep moving forward.”
Goldberg said he filed the challenge partly because of the effort he and his team went through when gathering enough signatures to avoid a challenge. They gathered 1,464 signatures. Though, the main reason for the challenge should be clear enough.
“What is the expression?” Goldberg said. “The easiest candidate to beat is the one that’s not on the ballot.”