County clerks usually only get attention when they mess up.
On that score, Nancy Pinkin, the clerk in Middlesex County, has achieved a daily double – both Democrats and Republicans have filed legal actions alleging she’s incompetent.
Both actions stem from Pinkin’s cancellation of last week’s drawing for positions on the June primary battle. The cancellation was mind-boggling given the fact conducting a ballot drawing is one of the clerk’s principal election duties.
The Democrats’ suit was filed on behalf of five candidates running under the banner, “Democrats for Transparency and Fairness.” Three are running for town council in Piscataway and two are running for county commissioner. They are challenging candidates backed by the Middlesex County Democratic organization.
The Republicans’ action – actually an order to show cause – was filed by congressional candidate Rik Mehta. He, Tom Toomey and Susan Kiley are seeking the CD-6, GOP nod to challenge Democratic incumbent Frank Pallone. Kiley is the candidate favored by Middlesex Republicans.
Both filings take aim at Pinkin, a former Democratic assemblywoman, but they are not identical.
The Democrats’ are challenging Pinkin’s refusal to conduct a drawing and to allow all five candidates to be placed “jointly” on the ballot.
As explained today at a court hearing, Pinkin contends that the “Democrats for Transparency and Fairness” ticket is not a “joint” ticket because all of the eligible ballots spots are not filled. In other words, the challenging ticket is not running candidates for sheriff and one other commission seat.
Lawyers for the challenging slate said that reasoning is an affront to basic logic and the definition of the word, “joint.”
Mehta’s action zeroes in on Pinkin’s cancellation of last Thursday’s ballot drawing.
A statement he issued this afternoon is filled with the type of rhetoric you’d expect.
“Pinkin arbitrarily and capriciously ignored blackletter law when she awarded the coveted Column A ballot position to establishment Republicans without giving me or my team any chance for the same benefit,” it said. “State law – basic ethics and morality – requires Pinkin to allow for due process but she has flagrantly ignored the law in a raw abuse of power. ”
Mehta adds that by not holding a drawing, Pinkin thumbs her nose at every Republican who signed his petition.
While most of his fire is aimed at the Democratic clerk, Mehta isn’t forgetting about Kiley, who he accuses of remaining silent “in the face of corruption.”
A ruling on the Dems’ suit is expected on Tuesday.
There really isn’t a lot of time; ballots do have to be printed.