Brian Varela said adieu by giving thanks.
After watching close to two full days of court hearings, Varela realized his congressional petition lacked the 200 signatures needed to get on the ballot in CD-8 and mount a Democratic primary challenge against party favorite Robert Menendez Jr.
So, he quickly told the court he was withdrawing his candidacy. He went on to thank the judge, his lawyer and his adversary for their competence and even the press for watching the proceedings over about 15 hours.
But there was more.
“This is not my last day, this is only the beginning,” Varela said. When he seeks elected office again, he vowed to be a bit wiser in going about it.
Varela’s petition originally presented 589 names, far more than the 200 required. But the Hudson County Democratic Organization challenged the petition, saying more than 400 names were invalid. Two days of hearings proved that. Many signatures were indeed invalid. Many signers were not registered voters; others lived outside CD-8. Some were not registered Democrats. Some signatures were identical.
At one point, Steven Kleinman, the lawyer representing the Hudson County Democrats, spoke of fraudulent signatures, adding, “There clearly is something hanky going on.”
After all the names were individually examined, an administrative law judge and lawyers from both sides went over them one more time to tally up those that were valid. When they finished, the tally stood at 181 – 19 less than needed. That prompted Varela to address the court and say he was withdrawing.
Kleinman responded that “nothing personal” was afoot. He said it’s important to protect the “integrity” of the process. This was a courtroom, albeit one over Zoom, not a political rally. Still, Varela could not resist a not very subtle political observation.
He said there are a lot of people and organizations “not in favor of people like myself running.”
Looks like he’s ready for the next campaign already.