North Bergen mayoral hopeful Larry Wainstein says that Mayor Nick Sacco and his re-election slate lied about collecting over 52,000 petitions for nomination as a group, but the incumbents say that they only submitted a portion of that number as part of a strategy.
“He [Sacco] said he surrendered those petitions to you,” Wainstein said to Township Clerk Erin Barillas in a YouTube video released by his campaign last night.
“No he did not,” Barillas responded.
“He had them inside the township, in Town Hall,” Wainstein continued.
“But he didn’t give them to me. I did not accept those petitions that were downstairs,” Barillas answered.
While the footage is not dated, it seems clear that the video was filmed the same day that Sacco and the Board of Commissioners announced that they had filed over 52,000 petitions of nomination, collectively, during a March 8th press conference.
In a rare instance where the Wainstein and Sacco camps are in agreement, both sides revealed today that the incumbents ended up filing about 1,100 petitions each.
“This is another instance of Sacco lying to the public. Sacco said on filing day and then again at his campaign rally that they had over 10,000 signatures,” Wainstein said in a statement.
“However, the clerk’s office only has 1,100 petitions. This is more smoke and mirrors by a 35-year incumbent that has lost touch with the people of North Bergen. Sacco knows his days are numbered.”
However, Board of Chosen Freeholders Chair Anthony Vainieri (D-8), also the chair of the Sacco re-election campaign, along with campaign spokeswoman Wendy Martinez, fired back at Wainstein during a short presser at their headquarters this afternoon.
“We filed, with the clerk, somewhere around 1,100 petitions. I walked them in myself personally. They were filed with the municipal clerk, okay? He’s just mad because he can’t get his hands on these petitions to go after our supporters,” Vainieri began.
“These are not OPRA-able. They were not handed into the municipal clerk. They’re not township records. These are our personal records for ourselves, our database, to get our supporters together, emailing them information, to let them know when the election will be, if they need assistance getting to the polls, and etcetera.”
Martinez added that the Sacco team decided to only file about 10 percent of the petitions they collected in order to keep the clerk’s office operating smoothly and be put in a predicament where municipal employees had to work overtime.
She also said that Wainstein’s campaign video quotes Sacco at his campaign kickoff rally as saying his team had gathered over 10,000 signatures per person, not submitting that number to the clerk’s office.
“Each and every one of you here, who spent the last month out getting petitions, so we have about 10,700 petitions each,” Sacco said on March 11th.
The boxes of unsubmitted petitions were also on display inside headquarters and the press were welcomed to inspect them.
When asked by HCV to respond to accusations of being disingenuous or engaging in gamesmanship, Vainieri said the campaign has no reason not to accommodate each and every person who wants to sho support.
“When our supporters and volunteers are walking the streets and getting nominating petitions, it’s hard to tell somebody, ‘no, don’t sign anymore, we don’t need the signature,’ he explained.
“People are still coming into this office handing in petitions, wanting to sign, because they’re starting to here about the signatures and they want to sign for Mayor Sacco and his team.”
Wainstein was not immediately available to respond in person, but campaign spokesman Hank Shainkopf blasted Sacco over the situation.
“Power plant Sacco and the truth don’t usually meet, petitions are due on a date according to the law, not when he feels like he ought to be provided,” he said.
“This shows the North Bergen voters that they shouldn’t be afraid, because when it comes to petitions, Sacco doesn’t have the support.”
Meanwhile, Vainieri found it amusing that “Lying Larry” would accuse the Sacco campaign of spreading misinformation.
“He doesn’t live in North Bergen, [it’s] comical,” he concluded.
The North Bergen municipal elections are on May 14th, a rematch that has been four years in the making after Sacco bested Wainstein after a grueling 2015 campaign.