Join Our Telegram Channel


As the news was first broken here on FAA News, a recently filed lawsuit seeks to ensure that one candidate is near certain to win a seat on the Toms River Council.

The plaintiff in the matter has just now asked the judge to stay the imminent printing of the election ballots pending a hearing on the matter.

Earlier this year, Toms River Councilman Dan Rodrick was elected to the mayoral position. At that point a vacancy was created in his Ward 2 council seat which does not expire until 2025.

The Council has selected George Lobman to fill the vacancy for the remainder of 2024.

An election will be held later this year to fill the vacancy for 2025. The primary elections will be held on Tuesday, June 4. The general elections will be held in November.

Kevin Geoghegan and William Byrne have filed petitions to run in the Republican primary election.

Susan Gato Payne is the sole candidate who filed a petition to run in the Democrat primary election.

Byrne is Rodrick's handpicked candidate. On the other hand, Geoghegan is aligned with ousted Mayor Maurice Hill. Geoghegan previously served on the council in an at-large seat from 2020 through last year when he was defeated in the Republican primary along with his running mates and then-Mayor Maurice Hill.

Essentially, the upcoming Republican primary election is gearing up to be a race between a Rodrick supporter - who would support Rodrick's current majority on the council - and a Hill supporter who would boost opposition against Rodrick.

This primary election is important as Toms River typically votes Republican in the general elections, therefore whichever candidate wins in the primary elections is likely to take victory in the general elections.

However, things have taken a major twist as Geoghegan has filed legal action alleging that Byrne's candidacy must be voided on several procedural grounds.

Obviously, if Geoghegan succeeds in court, he is very likely to regain a seat on the council in the general elections.

According to Geoghegan's filing in New Jersey Superior Court in Ocean County, Byrne was a long-time Democrat and only changed parties to Republican very recently. Accordingly, his switch has not even gone into effect yet. Glaringly, he left blank the "what party are you a member of" column, indicating that he could not honestly assert to already be a member of the Republican party.

Additionally, there were a number of irregularities with Byrne's petition, including that Councilwoman Lynn O'toole notarized the Oath of Allegiance and she was the signer of the nominating petition. As a sitting council member and overseer of the Clerk's Office, she has a conflict of interest in the election of incoming council members.

In addition, the Affidavit of Person Who Circulates Petition and Witnesses Signatures was not properly notarized.

The petition also failed to include a functioning campaign email address as required by state law.

Moreover, Byrne requested that the "Regular Republican Club of Ocean County" be his official slogan, despite not having submitted any documentation that the club endorses this candidacy.

Finally, the County Line Bracketing structure violates several constitutional rights.

The complaint, which names as defendants Byrne, O'toole, Rodrick, and Ocean County Clerk Scott Colabella, seeks an injunction barring Byrne from being placed on the election ballot.

Geoghegan initially submitted his objections to Byrne's petition to Colabella mere days after the petition was filed. Colabella ignored the objections, saying that "after speaking to the Township Attorney, Byrne was found to be a member of the Republican party, and that rest of the objections were beyond his purview."

As the primary elections will take place in less 2 months, Geoghegan filed a Motion for Order To Show Cause, seeking a hearing on short notice.

Agreeing that the matter is emergent, Ocean County Superior Court Judge Craig Wellerson signed the Order To Show Cause and scheduled a hearing on April 29, 2024.

However, state law provides that vote by mail ballots be mailed out 45 days before election day - which is this Saturday.

Seeing that he won't get his day in court until April 29 - which would be already after the ballots are printed and mailed out - Mr. Geoghegan today submitted a petition to Judge Wellerson seeking for temporary relief for a stay of printing and mailing the Republican Primary Ballots for Ward 2 pending the outcome of the April 29 hearing.

"A temporary stay will allow for the plaintiff’s Constitutional rights to be protected and will ensure theintegrity of the election for the voters as correcting an unconstitutional practice is in the public interest.

"Vote by mail is a privilege to voters created by statute, not a Constitutional right. The stay will avoid voter disenfranchisement should the court find that Defendant Byrne is not a qualified candidate or ineligible due to deficiencies in the nominating petition.

"The recent cases filed by Andy Kim in federal court have held firm that County Line Balloting is an unconstitutional practice. Office balloting is the constitutional procedure for presenting candidates to voters. A weighing of the Constitutional Rights of the plaintiff and the integrity of the ballot against a brief delay in the mailing of the ballots is warranted. 

"This is further supported by the recent decision by the Third Circuit in Kim v. Hanlon which noted:

As discussed earlier, any harm to the state's or the CCDC's interests is outweighed by the burdens on the Plaintiffs' associational rights. And any logistical burden the county clerks face in changing the ballots appears to be entirely manageable, as evidenced by the District Court's findings and the fact that all of the clerks have abandoned this appeal. Looking at the final factor of the traditional preliminary injunction test, the answer is clear: remedying an unconstitutional practice is always in the public interest."

Judge Wellerson is expected to soon respond to the just filed petition.

To join a FAA News WhatsApp Group, click here.

To join the FAA News WhatsApp Status, click here.

No comments: