South Jersey Progressive Democrats Successfully Oust Phantom Candidates
On April 13, 2022, South Jersey Progressive Democrats scored a historic win against the Norcross machine establishment. Camden County Clerk Joe Ripa made a determination on the petition challenge submitted by Kate Delany, head of South Jersey Progressive Democrats, ruling that petitions of county commissioner candidates Ann Klein and Anthony Ferrante are invalid and are ineligible to appear on the ballot. With these two county commissioner candidates removed from the running, the primary election will now only feature the two opposing factions in Camden County–the Norcross aligned Camden County Democratic Committee and the South Jersey Progressive Democrats.
“For too long,” said Rena Margulis of South Jersey Progressive Democrats, “the Camden County Democratic primary ballot has featured columns of phantom candidates who make no visible effort to campaign, have no websites, no social media and hang up on reporters. Their effect is to divide the anti-machine vote and push anti-machine candidates to the far reaches of the ballot. On the 2018 Democratic primary ballot because of phantom candidates, Donald Norcross appeared in Column 2 while his two opponents appeared in Column 9. No other state allows a county clerk to lay out a ballot that so clearly advantages his allies. I congratulate the SJPD team that closely examined the petitions submitted by Klein and Ferrante and made such an excellent case for this disqualification from the ballot that even the machine-dominated Clerk’s office was compelled to disqualify them.” Margulis ran for Camden County Clerk in 2019 on a platform of a. using the same fair primary ballot structure used in all other states and b. disinterested parties drawing candidates for primary ballot position, not the County Clerk.
“This is a triumph not just for South Jersey Progressive Democrats but for everyone invested in the integrity of our elections,” said Kate Delany, head of South Jersey Progressive Democrats. “At long last, we have a ballot that only includes those sincerely seeking office. We have finally rid ourselves of recruited spoilers designed to confuse voters and peel votes away from progressives. It’s encouraging for the progressive movement, seeing democracy win out like this, a clear sign that we need to keep energy high and pressure on to win. Though Klein and Ferrante filed under the slogan “Real South Jersey Progressives,” the only progressives on the ballot will be us, the South Jersey Progressive Democrats.”
“Phantom candidates have been appearing on ballots here for over a decade,” Chris Emrich of South Jersey Progressive Democrats said. “While we may never know all the details of the schemes, it’s clear that someone has been recruiting fake candidates to run year after year. The most likely answer is that those in power are doing this to maximize the advantage already afforded to them by New Jersey’s undemocratic party line ballot. This decision is a victory for anyone who cares about transparent and fair elections.”