A razor thin victory margin. Improper campaign contributions. Allegations of the court system “stealing” an election.
And Indian voters casting ballots in Gujarati?
The good citizens of Morris County, New Jersey aren’t used to this much election drama. It’s a predictably “red” county that Alex DeCroce, Jay Webber, and other statewide GOP leaders call home. But Republican-on-Republican violence does happen even in this otherwise idyllic stretch of suburbia, Save Jerseyans and, when it does, it rarely ends well. Consider a famous example when then-Freeholder Chris Christie lost a re-election primary to John Murphy.
This latest dust-up is convoluted to say the least. The Parsipanny Patch has a pretty thorough article up that’s well suited for background reading. I’ll summarize: in the establishment corner, we have incumbent Margaret Nordstrom. She’s been a freeholder since September 1999; her tenure may come to an end this January, however, when the challenger, an upstart named William “Hank” Lyon (who works at the family-owned “Qdoba Mexican Grill” chain), beat her by just SIX votes (12,270 to 12,264). That’s a 0.0002% margin of victory for Mr. Lyon. Add to the mix a late, unreported, way-over-the-allowable-ELEC-limit $16,000 contribution from Lyon’s father and 32 “illegal” votes cast by senior citizens who didn’t recall ever signing said ballots and YES, Morris County Republicans have a real mess on their hands!
Enter the New Jersey Superior Court and its controversial September 13th ruling. You can read the entire decision here: Nordstrom v. Lyon (pdf). I did. Assignment Judge Thomas L. Weisenbeck‘s Judgment Order, issued pursuant to Ms. Nordstrom’s petition, is 37-pages long and, as its length might suggest, leaves precious few stones unturned. His admittedly radical chosen remedy was to declare the primary election results both null and void and, in doing so, permit the elected GOP County Committee to resolve the issue itself at tonight’s pre-scheduled convention in Mountain Lakes as provided by statute.
The facts in this case speak loudly and clearly for themselves: before we even get to the issue of the $16,000 contribution, and moreover whether the mailer it purchased had a quantifiable effect on the initial result, we have to consider how the number of illegal votes in this primary appears to be six times larger than the actual margin of victory for Mr. Lyon. Taken together with the other points of concern set forth in the Court’s decision, it seems to me that there is more than enough lingering doubt to warrant at least some kind of action for the sake of the process.
The only question, of course, is what action? In an editorial, The Daily Record slammed the Court’s decision and inferred that a recount would be more fitting and democratic. Wouldn’t the media love that! A mini Florida 2000 circus right here in our own backyard to spice up a dull off-year election cycle. No thanks… we don’t do dimpled chads in Jersey.
Over at The Star-Ledger, Paul Moonshine thinks the original result should simply stand because hey! According to him, everyone in New Jersey violates campaign finance laws. Now, it’s one thing to disagree with the state of campaign finance law in America, Paul; isn’t respect for the rule of law something else altogether? Frankly, a willingness to play by the rules – even when they stink – is about the only thing separating some Republicans from Carl Lewis! And how would Mr. Lyon’s Republican backers feel if a Democrat bested him in November by six votes and yet it was discovered that this hypothetical Democrat had dumped $16,000 at the last moment in a manner inconsistent with applicable campaign finance notice laws?
I’d suspect they’d raise hell and rightly so!
So take your Blogger-in-Chief’s advice, save the drama for your mama, and don’t please allow this billowing, toxic cloud of angst get the best of you and ruin tonight’s convention, Morris County Committeemen and Committeewomen!
This is an excellent opportunity for a “reset” of sorts. Put down your war clubs and battle axes. Set the past few months aside. Hear from both candidates tonight and dispassionately weigh Ms. Nordstrom’s substantial record and ample experience against this young rebel’s raw passion as well as the number of new people that he engaged in the process. Then, when the speeches and glad-handing are over, make a decision that is growth-oriented for the Republican Party and NOT just a mere reflection of your pro- or anti-establishment affiliation.
I truly believe that our future as a united party in 2011, 2012 and beyond depends on getting this right, and the process starts with each of you tonight in Mountain Lakes, Morris Republicans. Set an example. Don’t let me down!