Breaking: Siding With Scutari, Judge Rules For Open Voting Process For Union County Democratic Chairman’s Convention

Siding with arguments made by Senator Scutari’s legal team, Superior Court Judge Katherine Dupuis moments ago issued a ruling that an open voting process must take be used at tomorrow night’s scheduled convention to decide the next Union County chairman.  The ruling is a blow to Acting Chair Colleen Mahr, and Hillside Chairman Anthony Salters, who both advocated for a closed process with the use of voting machines.  Dupuis’ ruling won’t allow for the machines to be used.

Having heard the arguments from all sides, Judge Dupuis had at one point pulled the attorneys (Ed Kologi on behalf of Scutari, Bill Northgrave on behalf of Mahr, and Ma’lee Wing on behalf of Salters) into her chamber to mediate an agreeable outcome, saying that the case could go on and on, noting that any order she issued would be challenged by either Kologi or Northgrave, and likely wouldn’t be resolved in time for for convention.  She recessed the court for an hour, resuming at 1:30pm for her ruling.

As court resumed and Judge Dupuis returned to the bench, her ruling imminent, Kologi made a request for injunctive relief, asking for a preliminary injunction against the use of the voting machines.  Anything less than that ruling does not serve his cause, Kologi argued, saying the defendant hadn’t shown any evidence that a hand-raised vote, in accordance with the by-laws, would be problematic or disorderly.  Northgrave countered, saying that he is seeking “what serves the committee”, noting that it will be difficult to get an accurate tabulation of the vote total with a show of hands for this election, the first contested chairman’s race in Union in forty years.  “The question for the court is are you going to enjoin the use of machines?” Northgrave said.

The decision for an open convention is a victory for Scutari, who had advocated for an open process, in accordance with the County Committee by-law, and whose allies had filed a complaint against Mahr in Superior Court.  Mahr wanted a closed process, as did Salters, who made his case over the weekend in this Insider NJ op-ed, saying a closed voting process would help alleviate fears of voter intimidation.

Scutari’s legal team earlier in the day sent a letter to Union Clerk Rajoppi requesting that she review five Union Township (where Senator Cryan is MC) committee seats that they say aren’t in fact vacant, and that the lawful committee persons be certified to vote.

The chairman’s battle went into high gear over the last week, with Monmouth-based LD11 Senator Vin Gopal throwing his support to Scutari, joining caucus members Ruiz, Cunningham, and Pou, who have all endorsed Scutari. Senate President Sweeney had announced his support the day Scutari announced his candidacy for chair. Scutari had come to the aid of Gopal’s candidacy on the fundraising front in last year’s LD11 battle, raising over $100k for him.

Mahr secured the endorsement of CD12 Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman last week.

Over the weekend, Mahr made a direct appeal to committee members in a video, saying the outcome of the chair election will determine the party’s future. Allies of Senator Scutari immediately pounced on the video, with Freeholders Hudak and Mirabella and former Scotch Plains Mayor Glover calling for the removal of their images from the video. On Friday, Scotch Plains committee member and Scutari supporter Kimberly Nix released a statement saying Mahr had sent out a campaign piece with her picture in it, saying it suggested Nix had endorsed her.

Now, with the ruling being made and Scutari having prevailed, the chair candidates head into the final 24-hour stretch of the campaign until tomorrow’s hand-vote convention.

(Visited 61 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

News From Around the Web

The Political Landscape