Bhalla, Campos-Medina, & Speziale claim ‘irreparable harm’ if county lines reinstated


Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, Dr. Patricia Campos-Medina, and Paterson Public Safety Director Jerry Speziale have filed an amicus brief citing “irreparable harm” if county lines are reinstated on appeal.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“It is essential that the landmark decision leveling the playing field in New Jersey Democratic primaries is not reversed,” Bhalla, seeking to unseat U.S. Rep. Rob Menendez in the 8th District congressional race, said in a statement.

“We must now safeguard this long overdue development that ensures fairness and a true democracy in our primaries, free from the control of party bosses.”

The 21-page brief, filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit yesterday, by election law attorney Scott Salmon, seeks to uphold U.S. District Court Judge Zahid Quraishi’s decision on Friday that said county organizational lines are unconstitutional.

He denied a subsequent motion to stay filed by 15 county clerks throughout New Jersey, though Hudson County Clerk E. Junior Maldonado was not one of them, sending the case to the Third Circuit.

Salmon’s preliminary statement opened in a truly unique fashion that is sure to get the full attention of the court – for better or for worse.

“Chico Marx, dressed up as Groucho Marx and trying to hoodwink another character in the 1933 classic movie, ‘Duck Soup,’ famously exclaimed, ‘Who ya gonna believe, me or your own eyes?’ That is the question presented to the Court by way of the emergent motion for a stay of the District Court’s preliminary injunction,” he wrote.

“In essence, the movants ask this Court to take their word that changing to a different ballot design, one used in every election in every state in our nation aside from New Jersey, is both impossible to do and will cause significant voter confusion. They rely on hearsay, supposition, and vague speculation to do so.”

The initial ruling on Good Friday provided emergency injunctive relief for a lawsuit spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Andy Kim (D-3), now the frontrunner in the U.S. Senate race.

Kim briefly accepted county lines in several counties, including Hudson, between the March 25th filing deadline and the March 29th decision due to First Lady Tammy Murphy dropping out of the race, but that point appears to be moot, at least for now.

Nonetheless, Campos-Medina, also seeking the Senate seat of scandal-plagued U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), was critical of the fact that Kim accepted county lines at all.

“Unlike Andy Kim, I have not accepted the ‘county line,’ and thus, I will be forced to bracket and associate with other candidates to either obtain preferential ballot placement in any county ballot on which they will appear, or to avoid being featured alone in ‘Ballot Siberia,'” she added in her own statement.

“If the courts were to stay its initial ruling, the Court would be perpetuating an election process that is demonstrably unfair, uneven, and unconstitutional.”

Speziale, a former Passaic County sheriff who is now running for his old seat, did not offer any comment beyond what’s in the brief.

However, Salmon noted that Speziale “was offered the county line by the Passaic County Democratic Committee, but only if he agreed to allow the County Chairman, John Currie, to name the undersheriffs and make all personnel and financial decisions for the department.”

The Third Circuit has set an expedited case schedule that could yield a decision as early as today and unlikely to go beyond this week with county clerks having ballot drawings scheduled for 3 p.m. tomorrow.

In the event that a stay was granted, Bhalla, Campos-Medina, and Speziale would all be running off the line.

The primary election in New Jersey is on June 4th.

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