15 Going After 3 Freeholder Seats
Appeals court ruling issued just before filing deadline causes confusion; Lyon running unopposed as a result for unexpired seat
Ten Republicans, and four Democrats have filed petitions with the Morris County Clerk’s Office seeking their party’s nominations for two, 3-year seats on the Morris County Board of Freeholders.
And another Republican, incumbent William “Hank” Lyon of Montville, who took office less than a month ago to fill an unexpired term, will run unopposed to hold onto term seat for the two years it has left.
But that's in part because a court's last-minute ruling about Lyon's status—just hours before Monday's filing deadline for candidates—caused confusion among would-be candidates.
Confusion from the Court
Lyon was put in office after a state appeals court removed incumbent Margaret Nordstrom from office in February, setting up a special county Republican convention to fill the seat. Lyon won the convention easily over Edward France of Morristown.
A state appeals court said Monday that Morris County must hold a primary for the uncontested seat. At issue was whether Lyon could actually be considered the winner of last November's general election. He'd narrowly won the 2011 Republican primary, but that win was undone by a judge because of concerns over campaign finances and fradulent votes—a process that eventually put incumbent Nordstrom on the general election ballot, after a 2011 GOP convention to pick a nominee.
The appeals court was also considering whether Democrat Truscha Quattrone, whom Nordstrom beat in the general election, could claim the November victory as the only official candidate on the ballot. The court denied both scenarios.
The court’s ruling to remove Nordstrom said that the then-open seat, won by Lyon, would be a 1-year seat. The convention winner could choose to seek the remainder of the term in the June primary or choose not to run.
The appeals court said that its decision had no impact on the outcome of the November 2011 general election.
“We are unaware of any authority that would, as Lyon argues, result in Lyon being mandatorily instated as the Morris County Freeholder, either for the balance of the term or on an interim basis,” the court wrote.
France, who filed at the last minute Monday, said he wanted to challenge Lyon for the unexpired seat, but was told because his petition indicated he was seeking a “Morris County Freeholder” seat, and not the specific “unexpired” seat, he would be placed on the ballot as seeking a 3-year seat, with the other nine candidates.
“I was not told that I need to file for the unexpired seat,” France said.
Laura Roberts, director of the county clerk’s elections office, said because his petition did not indicate that was his choice, France would be a candidate for a regular seat.
Roberts said France could not alter his petition to indicate he was seeking the unexpired seat. He could have collected signatures on two separate petitions, she said, one for the three-year seat and the other for the two-year seat.
“It’s unfair,” France said, adding the appeals court’s late ruling made it difficult for candidates to know how to file. "How is the public supposed to know?"
Quattrone said she was also confused by the lack, until the last minute, of an appeals court ruling about the need to run for the unexpired term.
She said the decision, which was a simple denial of the question, should not have taken as long as it did.
"How long does it take to decide to write, 'denied denied, denied?'"she said.
But, she said, in the end it mattered little, she said. The Democrats having a four-candidate race for three nominations is not a bad thing, she said.
Lyon said his petition made it clear he was seeking just his own, unexpired seat.
Roberts said Lyon had come had asked when he picked up the petitions he wanted go be sure what heading to write on the documents.
“This will be exciting,” Lyon said. “I’ll get to be more than an observer.”
The Regular Seats
Incumbent John Murphy of Morris Township said last week he was not seeking re-election.
The Republicans who filed for the regular seats are: Incumbent Gene Feyl of Denville; incumbent and Freeholder Director William Chegwidden of Wharton; Florham Park Councilman Charles Germershausen; Morristown Councilwoman Alison Deeb; Parsippany Councilman John Cesaro; former Mount Olive Mayor David Scapicchio; and former Washington Township Councilman John Krickus; Jeremy Jedynak; of Rockaway Township; France; and former Denville Mayor Ted Hussa.
The Democrats are: Quattrone of Montville; Wasim Kahn of Parsippany; Toshiba Foster of Morristown; and Joy Singh of Morris Plains.
Kahn has previous run for New Jersey Senate and Assembly in the 26th District and Parsippany Township Council. Singh is a first-time candidate, and Smith lost in the June 2011 Morristown Democratic primary to incumbent Councilwoman Raline Smith-Reid.
Feyl’s name has surfaced as a potential replacement for Eileen Swan, the former chair of the Highlands Council, which oversees the implementation of the 2004 Highlands Preservation and Water Protection Act.
The Highlands Council fired Swan earlier this month, and her deputy quit in protest. The council has not started a search for a replacement.
Feyl said recently that he has not been approached by the governor’s office about the Highlands Council post, and until and unless it happens, he is a candidate for his freeholder seat.
If Feyl is named the lead the Highlands Council before the primary, he said, he would drop out of the freeholder race, as required by a 2010 law that says one person can not hold two government positions.
If he is appointed to the Highlands post, and drops out of the freeholder race after the ballots have been printed, Feyl’s name would still appear on the June ballot, however.
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