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Nordstrom Must Vacate Seat, Court Says

Freeholder position not assigned to Lyon, either.

A state appeals court Tuesday removed from office incumbent Morris County Republican Freeholder Margaret Nordstrom of Washington Township and declared the office vacant, saying that a Superior Court decision that voided the narrow June 2011 primary victory of challenger William “Hank” Lyon was improperly decided.

The ruling set the stage for a new election to fill the post.

“We believe this decision to be flawed on several grounds, we are reviewing our options,” said Nordstrom’s attorney Alan Zakin.

The appeals court reversed the order of Superior Court Assignment Judge Thomas Weisenbeck who, following a contested 2011 Republican primary that showed , called for a

A recount of the June results reduced that margin to six votes, and , claiming voter fraud and that an illegal campaign contribution was made by Lyon's camp.

Weisenbeck ordered the Morris County Republican Committee to hold a special election to choose between Nordstrom and challenger Lyon for the party’s candidate for the November general election.

The committee's .

In the general election, , 45,376 votes  to 26,982 votes.

Nordstrom was sworn in for a fifth term on Jan. 1.

“We reverse the Law Division's annulment of Lyon's nomination because of multiple legal errors that materially contributed to the court's ultimate declaration that Lyon's "nomination is null and void,” the court wrote in its opinion released Tuesday.

Jeff Bindle, executive director of the state’s Election Law Enforcement Commission, which filed for intervenor status in the case, was delighted by the appeals court decision. In that filing, , and not Superior Court has the authority to rule in issues relating to campaign contribution.

Weisenbeck had ruled hat ELEC’s jurisdiction over contributions applied to general elections, and not primary elections.

“We felt all along that a recent Morris County election should not have been overturned based on alleged violations of campaign finance regulations,’’ said Brindle.

“It is ELEC’s job to determine when such violations exist. Only in extremely rare instances does theagency have the ability to overturn an election. The appellate judges today clearly recognized these facts,” he said.

John Sette, Republican Committee chairman and a member of the county’s board of elections, said the committee will hold a convention within 30 days, as required by law. That was the procedure used last year following Weisenbeck’s ruling that nullified Lyon’s primary election win.

Sette said the winner of the convention would hold the vacant freeholder seat through the end of the unexpired term, to January 2013, when the winners of the November general election are sworn in at the start of their new terms.

The winner of the convention has the choice to file to run for the seat in the upcoming June primary, Sette said. Or they could chose not to run, he said. Either way, the convention winner will hold the seat even if they are not the party’s nominee on the November ballot, he said.

Sette said the appeals court ruling has no impact on the outcome of the November 2011 general election because that election was vacated by today’s decision. Since Nordstrom won that election and the Republicans held the seat, it is up to the Republican convention to fill the seat.

The June primary already has three open freeholder seats as incumbents William Chegwidden of Wharton, John Murphy of Morris Township, and Gene Feyl of Denville are up for re-election.

Tom Basta February 11, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Dan: Guilty, I am a lawyer, and trust me there are plenty of non-starters, based on the number of cases every lawyer turns down. Ms. Quatrone could have filed a Motion to Intervene in the case (much as ELEC did) and did not for reasons that are known to her and her attorney, so obviously it's only conjecture. And I would agree that people run in elections, not parties. But our Supreme Court tends to somewhat disagree to an extent, stating that extensive efforts should be made to ensure that voter choice between a Democratic candidate and a Republican one (See State Democratic Party v. Samson, colloquially known as the Torricelli/Lautenberg switcheroo) be honored. I'd be willing to venture that you agreed with that decision. While the facts of that case were different, as they invariably are, the principle is the same: that voters should go into the voting booth with the opportunity to decide between a GOP candidate and Dem candidate. What's good for the goose... My point is that I know of no case in NJ where, in the case of the disqualification of the winner, the silver medalist was given the gold. This isn't the Olympics. A situation has arisen in Camden County, where in a legislative district the general election winner, a Dem, was ruled to not meet residency requirements. The case is on appeal I believe (I don't know the specifics), but it's been ruled that the Democratic party down there would pick a replacement. So basically, there it is.
Thomas Lotito February 11, 2012 at 07:35 PM
How ridiculous Dan, Your candidate lost by a landslide, Lyons or Nordsrtom would have won the election, your candidate was never even a threat. Did you condone her remarks that calling Republicans tea baggers is portmanteau?
Moses Lonn February 11, 2012 at 07:58 PM
@ Dan - As far as this election is concerned, Hunter Thompson may have the best line on it all. "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." I'm afraid we have all gone through the looking glass.
MadInNJ February 11, 2012 at 08:17 PM
The only things that are embarrassing, Mr. Grant, are 1.) your pathetic "theory" of how your candidate should be handed a seat that she LOST; 2.) your attempts to change the facts; and 2.) your constant attempts to sound non-partisan whilst your views are all obviously hyper-partisan. The Appellate court reversed the judge's decision to nullify Lyon's win. Unless the Republicans had been prescient enough to know that that would happen, they selected a candidate per the judge's direction. Again, not sure how that then justifies giving a Loser a seat on the Freeholder board just because she was the runner up. The citizens of Morris county were denied a real election by the judiciary, not the Republicans. And we need to have one before anyone gets the seat.
HistorianWT February 21, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Domino, in terms of people throwing their hat into the ring, it sounds like you are from eastern Morris County, so you might not know that from 2005 to 2008 Washington Township had a "one and done" Committeeman named Kevin Nedd whose public statements were posted on a campaign site called "kevinneddsaid" and led to the biggest electoral loss of any incumbent is the 200 year old history of Morris County. Followed by a criminal conviction and life downward spiral. So not every elected iofficial is going to want a chronicle of his blather! lol...

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