NEW BRUNSWICK – Ordinarily mild-mannered state Senator Sam Thompson (R-12) erupted in a courtroom this afternoon to convince a judge to disallow a rival’s local candidates from using the slogan of the Middlesex County Republican Organization (MCRO).
“Old Bridge has no right to give the assignment of a slogan to any candidate,” fumed Thompson, sitting in the courtroom of Judge Arthur Bergman.
Thompson’s GOP Primary rival Art Haney also faced the judge, sitting beside Tim Howes, the attorney for Assemblyan Jack Ciattarelli (R-16).
Thompson savaged him while Haney sat in stony chastised silence – on orders by Howe to keep his mouth shut during the hearing.
“The plaintiff falsely awarded the MCRO slogan and enagged in an outright lie,” the senator declared.
“Wild accusations,” Howes said.
“It impacts me, too,” Thompson shot back.
The judge listened carefully as Thompson cited statutes and bylaws forbidding the use of the MCRO slogan by entities not directly authorized to use the slogan, and remarked at one point, “I’m assuming you’re not an attorney.”
“I’m not an attorney,” Thompson, a chemist by trade, said.
“You could have fooled me,” Bergman said.
Howes could claim a victory in court today by convincing Bergman that Ciattarelli should not occupy a space on the Middlesex ballot underneath fellow GOP candidate for governor Joe Rullo, which was the original ballot problem. But the victory was offset by Ciattarelli’s rival, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, getting the same advantage – and impaired by Ciattrelli ally Haney’s inability to use the slogan for his local ticket.
In addition to running for the state senate, Haney serves as the local Old Bridge Republican chair.
The bitter, longstanding rivalry he has with Thompson tugged Middlesex County GOP Chair Lucile Panos into a local township council challenge of Haney’s slate.
Thompson sat in a broiling, brooding wordless fury while an attorney representing Middlesex County Clerk Elaine Flynn tried to fend off Howes’ argument about ballot position. The judge favored Howes’ case here, noting that the constitutional right tfor fair placement on the ballot trumps ballot position drawing. But when the issue of whether Haney could bracket Old Bridge candidates by using the MCRO slogan, he sprang forward and took control of the hearing.
“They have no right to the MCRO slogan,” said Thompson, repeatedly eyeballing Haney, who sat on the other side of the room.
“You might consider how to take action against him,” Thompson advised the judge, referring to Haney and his rival’s efforts to shoehorn – without Chair Panos’ authorization – Old Bridge candidates onto the MCRO line as a result of his own alliance with the MCRO-endorsed Ciattarelli.
Ciattarelli won’t get sandwiched under Rullo on a redrawn ballot as a consequence of Bergman’s judgement, but then again neither will his arch-rival Guadagno, whose name also sat under another GOP candidate for governor on the original Flynn ballot.
“I wanted to be an attorney,” Thompson cracked at InsiderNJ on his way out of the courtroom, reverting to his usual soft-spoken self, complete with easygoing Louisiana drawl.