All 10 Hoboken council-at-large candidates will be on the ballot after Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s team effort remove three independent candidates was unsuccessful.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Hoboken Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia filed a motion with Hudson County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Jablonski to finalize the certification of municipal candidates this morning and the judge ruled to allow Ian Rintel, Manuel Rivera, and Cindy Wiegand on the ballot.
A September 10th certification from Deputy City Clerk Jerry Lore says that “I misunderstood the timeline” of the November 2nd municipal elections, and while the August 30th filing deadline was adhered to, the subsequent deadlines were not.
“I now recognize that the deadlines I enforced for the Clerk’s Office to notify candidates of defects, to correct defects, as well as the acceptance of a challenge and my handling and response to same may have prejudiced some of the candidates attempting to be included in the ballot,” the certification says.
“Furthermore, I certified candidate Ms. [Cindy] Wiegand to be included on the ballot even though I do not believe she submitted enough valid nominating petitions.”
While all candidates needed 431 valid petitions of nomination, Lore continued that Rintel submitted 409, Wiegand submitted 421, and Rivera submitted 409.
Although candidates were supposed to cure their petitions by September 2nd, as the Jersey City Clerk’s office enforced, but the Hoboken Clerk’s Office allowed until September 9th.
The Hoboken Clerk’s Office also told Vijay Chaudhuri, Team Bhalla’s campaign manager, that all challenges must be submitted by September 8th, when the actual deadline was September 3rd.
” … The decisions of the Hoboken Municipal Clerk to reject the nominating petitions of Wiegand, Rintel, and Rivera, should be affirmed,” Flavio Komuves, at attorney for Bhalla’s council slate, wrote to Jablonski yesterday.
“In this case, there were admittedly short-staffing issues that slowed the Clerk’s initial
review, and a great deal of wrong information was given out concerning many of the applicable deadlines. However, there is no dispute that all the candidates
received the same information, and there was no favoritism one way or the other among the candidates.”
While the three candidates in question did not have enough valid petitions, Jablonski rejected that argument and placed them all on the ballot due to the errors made by the clerk’s office.
As a result, the raw tallies submitted by each candidate, 508 for Rintel, 519 for Wiegand, and 431 for Rivera, were accepted.
“This just shows why it’s essential that Ravi Bhalla does not have a rubber stamp city council – this fiasco threw away tax dollars while going against the interest of Hoboken voters,” Rintel told HCV today.
“He and his candidates sole motivation to keep candidates off the ballot is selfish and not at all citizen serving.”
Since the legal challenge came from Bhalla’s campaign, as opposed to City Hall, it did not appears to cost the taxpayers any additional dollars, though Rintel still questions if additional funds were spent on the law department and/or the clerk’s office throughout this ordeal.
The sole slate challenge to Bhalla’s team, the “Independently Together” trio of Cheryl Fallick, Sheila Brennan, and Paul Presinzano, also applauded the judge’s decision in a joint statement.
“Democracy is dependent on many voices and we want to welcome the three candidates that Team Bhalla attempted to keep off the ballot,” they said.
“We are excited for an issues-based campaign with lively but civil discussion and debate about the best ways to meet challenges and opportunities for Hoboken’s future and we look forward to securing the trust and confidence of voters when they cast their ballot on (or before) November 2nd.”
2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, who is supporting the Independently Together team and a frequent critic of Bhalla, chided the administration over today’s ruling.
“Since learning the mayoral race would be uncontested, I’ve advocated for more candidates for City Council so we can debate issues important to our community,” she said in her own statement.
“I am heartened to see how many have put their hand up to run and the discussions that are ahead, but am troubled that a Hudson County judge ruled today that he had little choice but to set aside election laws as a direct result of the Bhalla administration’s lack of oversight over our local election laws.”
The ballot drawing took place shortly after the ruling, with Rivera securing the top spot on the ballot (1H), followed by Rintel(3H), then Councilman-at-Large Jim Doyle, one of his running mates Joe Quintero, and Councilwoman-at-Large Emily Jabbour (5, 6, and 7H).
Fallick, Brennan, and Presinzano drew the next three spots (9, 10, and 11H), while Wiegand drew 13H, and Pat Waiters drew the final spot at 15H.
Bhalla campaign spokesman Rob Horowitz noted that the three candidates in question did not provide the valid number of petitions required, but also said they will not challenge this result further.
“As the City Clerk’s office itself stated, the candidates challenged did not meet the minimum requirements for qualifying for the ballot. That being said, we accept the Judge’s decision and welcome all the council candidates to the race. We look forward to a spirited contest,” he said in an email.
Editor’s note: This story was updated with a comment from Team Bhalla campaign spokesman Rob Horowitz.