No replacement yet for the late Jon Giordano


As of last week, no candidate has yet surfaced to fill the Second Ward seat left vacant by the untimely death of Councilman Jonathan Giordano on Jan. 7.

State election law called for members of the municipal county committee of the same political party as the person whose seat was left empty – in this case, Democratic – to convene within 15 days of the vacancy to deliberate on a possible fill-in.

By law, the committee was to come up with the names of three nominees to present to the municipal governing body for consideration. The mayor and Town Council would then have an additional 15 days to appoint one of the trio.

This past Friday night, the municipal Dems committee did, in fact, meet at the American Legion hall but failed to pick three names, according to Mayor Alberto Santos, committee chairman.

Only about 25 of the committee’s 60 members showed up, one source said.

Santos told The Observer that the committee “adopted a motion [made by Larry Handlin] not to nominate candidates … because we did not have three qualified candidates ready and willing to serve.”

That happened, Santos said, largely because “we did not begin our search [for possible nominees] until after Councilman Giordano’s (Jan. 13) memorial service – it wasn’t enough time to identify three candidates who meet the qualifications for the office and, more importantly, can continue Jon’s work and ably serve the residents of the Second Ward.”

Such a candidate must be “a resident of the Second Ward of Kearny, eligible to vote, and a member of the same political party as the person who vacated the seat,” Santos said.

Beyond that, however, Santos said, “the local Democratic Party … seeks candidates who, in addition to the legal requirements, are involved in the community.”

Absent the County Committee’s recommended nominees by the statutory deadline, Santos said, “the statute permits the Council and me to make a selection by majority vote without being limited by three names.”

The mayor and Council have until Feb. 6 to choose someone, Santos said.

Until that time, he added, “County Committee members can continue to be part of the process by recommending eligible candidates to the Council and me.”

Once the selection is made, and is appointed to the seat by the governing body, “the selected person will serve until the November 2017 general election at which [time] voters will elect a person to serve the remainder of [Giordano’s] term from November 2017 until Dec. 31, 2018.”

One possible candidate has, however, unofficially surfaced.

Former Second Ward Councilwoman Laura Cifelli Pettigrew on Sunday, Jan. 22, told The Observer she is willing to serve the rest of the current year of Giordano’s term.

She said she’d be an obvious selection – she served on the council for many years before retiring in 2014 – and as such, there wouldn’t be a learning curve. On day one, she’d know how things work as a representative.

She said if she were the selection, it would offer the rest of the council plenty of time to research other candidates who could serve after the year’s election.

This year, Santos is up for re-election, as are his likely Democratic council running mates, Marytrine DeCastro in the First Ward, Richard Konopka in the Second, Carol Jean Doyle in the Third and Michael Landy in the Fourth.

Unless other candidates surface, they would run unopposed in the June primary election. Whether they’d face any Republicans or independents in November isn’t yet known.

None of the incumbents have yet publicly announced whether they’ll be seeking re-election, although Doyle – the longest-serving council member – told The Observer she expects to run.

Additionally, whoever is ultimately appointed to fill Giordano’s seat would have a shot at running to complete his unexpired term, which runs through the end of 2018, unless someone else decides to make a bid for the seat.

– Ron Leir



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