A candidate in the race for the nomination for a council seat in the Second Ward of Kearny has been deemed ineligible because she hasn’t lived in the ward for the requisite one year.
Alexis Campos, a candidate on a ticket led by mayoral hopeful and local realtor Sydney J. Ferreira, who was pitted in race against incumbent Second Ward Councilman Rich Konopka, on a ticket led by Mayor Alberto G. Santos, says she moved to the Second Ward from her former residence in the Third Ward, in August 2020.
However, it appears she did not switch her voter registration until March 9, 2021. It is the voter registration that determines the eligibility and nothing else.
Additionally, according to reports, her voter records indicate she voted in the Third Ward in the November 2020 election, despite claiming she lived in the Second Ward at that the time.
By doing so, Campos would have voted for candidates who do not necessarily represent her as a Second Ward resident.
WHAT’S THE LAW?
Eligibility for municipal elections is governed by state law, specifically, NJSA (New Jersey Statutes Annotated): 40A:9-1.13, dated Jan. 1, 1981, and which states: “Except as provided in section 9 of this act, no person shall, on or after the effective date of this act, be eligible to become a candidate for any local elective office, or to be appointed to any local elective office, unless he is registered to vote in the local unit to which the office pertains, and has been a resident of that local unit for at least 1 year immediately prior to the date upon which the election for the office is to be held, or prior to the date upon which the appointment is made, as the case may be.”
In this case, “registered to vote” determines the one-year time frame. “Local unit” means ward, not town.
Campos’s ineligibility was first noted by Santos, but not in his governmental capacity as mayor, but in his political function as the chairman of the local, official Democratic Party. He sent a letter to Town Clerk Patricia Carpenter, and copied it to County Clerk E. Junior Maldonado, noting the law governing the eligibility requirements.
By state law, eligibility challenges are adjudicated by local municipal clerks, in this case, Carpenter. On March 14, Carpenter issued her decision declaring Campos ineligible to run.
Ferreira, meanwhile, took to social media to express his displeasure with Santos and his decision to challenge Campos’s eligibility. On a Facebook chat board called “The Kearny Round Table,” Ferreira wrote:
“Lexi Campos just called the county, and she was told that, if the mayor had not made this an issue, her petition would go right through without objection. The county will allow her to be on the ballot, but the final decision now rests with Town Clerk Patricia Carpenter. Town workers should not be placed in awkward positions like this.
“So the town clerk, who works for the town and whose office is steps away from the mayor’s office has the final decision on whether Lexi gets on the ballot? Are we really putting her in this position? The mayor filed the objection and created an issue, then the county declined his objection, and put it on the shoulders of the town clerk, who works for the mayor and council. It’s as if they know this was a mistake and want to wash their hands clean of it. This is unbelievable. Pat, I feel for you, and know this, I would never put you or another town worker in this position.”
Unfortunately for Ferreira, and Campos, even if he didn’t want to put Carpenter in such a position, it is her responsibility, as prescribed by law.
“Lexi walked the streets, knocked on doors, listened to the concerns of the residents, and then asked for their signatures. She had more than double the required number. She is a life-long resident of this town, and she moved from the 3rd ward to the 2nd ward in August of 2020. She didn’t just move to run for office now, as it was more than six months before she decided to join our ticket.”
Even if Campos had switched her voting record in August 2020 — she told Carpenter in an email she made the switch March 9, 2021 — she still would not have been eligible to run as a Democrat in the June primary, slated for June 8, 2021.
Ferreira went on:
“The people now see the truth about this administration and how they have been governing for 20 years. This is the reason why they have run virtually unopposed this entire time. They make this process much more difficult than it already is with their shenanigans. As much as this has distracted us in the last two days, we have picked up so many supporters and donations off this one issue. Therefore, I would like to thank the mayor. This stunt has completely backfired.
“Mayor, I know you have done this in the past and have gotten away with it, but the people are now watching. We will hold you accountable. Lexi will run, even if she has to do it as a write-in candidate, and if she does not win, she will have our support in November, when she runs as an independent. Win or lose, we are not going away. We will not be silenced. Don’t put Patricia Carpenter in this awkward position.”
Since Campos did not switch her voting record until March 2021, she would likely be deemed ineligible to run as an independent candidate, as well. Petitions for candidates who wish to run as non-partisans must be submitted by 4 p.m., Primary Election Day, June 8.
In this case, Campos’s residency eligibility to be on the Nov. 2, 2021, ballot, would again be determined by the day the voter registration was switched, March 9, 2021.
The mayor, meanwhile, noted regardless of what anyone on the county level might have told Campos, it is still the responsibility of the municipal clerk — and no one else — to determine election eligibility, despite contrary claims made by Ferreira.
“In order to run for office in any municipality in the state, the candidate must have resided there at least one year. Ms. Campos voted in the Third Ward in the November 2020 election and now seeks to run in the Second Ward,” Santo said. “By her own admission, she did not register in the Second Ward until March 9, 2021. The county clerk has no role in reviewing petitions to run for local office in primary elections.
“That function falls entirely on the municipal clerk, who must verify signatures and candidate eligibility. Mr. Ferreira’s protestations notwithstanding, he is fully aware of the requirements since his other candidates filed valid petitions. Rather, he thought no one would call him out on the ineligible one.”
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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.