Brian Varela talks on his social media posts about changing the world.
Before that can happen, Varela needs to get on the ballot for Congress and that’s his dilemma at the moment.
Demonstrating the mantra of taking nothing for granted, Hudson County Democrats want to kick Varela off the CD-8 primary ballot, thereby preventing him from challenging Robert Menendez Jr., the son of the senator.
The younger Menendez, the party’s anointed successor to the retiring Albio Sires, hardly seems to be in any trouble. But why put up with a challenge when you don’t have to? That appears to be the thinking of the county’s Democratic leaders.
You need 200 signatures to get on the ballot to run for Congress and Varela’s petition had 589. That would seem to be enough of a cushion.
The Hudson Dems are challenging 422 of them, which could bring Varela’s valid signatures down to 167 and below the limit.
A hearing today on the validity of the petition names before Joann Candido, an administrative law judge, hasn’t gone well for Varela.
His petition names are being thrown out left and right.
By early afternoon, the court had examined 92 signatures and disqualified 82 of them.
There were many problems.
For example, a doctor from West New York had signed Varela’s nominating petition with a Bergenline Avenue address. But that was his office address. He actually lives in Edgewater, which isn’t even in CD-8.
There were many other instances of signers not living in the mostly Hudson County district. There were signatures from people living in Dover, Kenilworth and Pennsauken, none of which are even that close to CD-8.
At least one signer was disqualified for being a registered Republican.
Most of all, there were names and addresses that did not match up.
Jill Barby, an official with the state Division of Elections, explained that names of people signing sometimes existed, but not at the listed address. At times, Barby judged the petition signature to be completely different from the signature on file for voters. Sometimes, the signer was nowhere to be found on the registration rolls.
In one exchange illustrating the day’s events, Barby was asked to check a signature from a “Jessey Kim” with an address on Garden Street in Hoboken.
After inspecting the rolls, Barby replied, “No Jessey, No Kim, nothing.”
A lot of this is not surprising.
Getting petition signatures in itself is not that difficult. Many people are willing “to help someone out” by signing a petition. But do they have a valid voting address in the district and, in this case, are they registered Democrats? That can be unknown.
This is why more seasoned politicos gather signatures at fundraisers and other political gatherings – locations where they are reasonably sure most in the crowd are registered voters. It’s a captive audience if you will.
It’s unknown how this challenge to Varela’s petition will turn out but the candidate is confident.
Here’s what he said on Twitter:
“Bring it on Hudson Dems.”