the staff of the Ridgewood blog
East Rutherford NJ, The Bergen County Republican Organization Chairman Jack Zisa said his organization is supporting the efforts of East Rutherford Republicans Joel Brizzi and Tom Banca to keep turncoat Councilman Jeff Lahullier off the November ballot after the County Clerk’s office reversed itself on the validity of Lahullier’s candidacy.
The BCRO was in Superior Court before Judge Estela De La Cruz on Friday on behalf of the East Rutherford Republican candidates to contest Lahullier candidacy. Del La Cruz granted the Republicans a temporary restraining order to halt the printing of county ballots until the Lahullier matter can be heard on September 28. The judge’s ruling also prohibits the local Democratic committee from filling a vacancy on their ticket until an official ruling can be made in two weeks.
Zisa says the efforts by the Democratic Party to make Lahullier their candidate for council in the upcoming election is an abuse of power on the part of the county Democratic organization, which controls county government.
“This is what happens when one party controls all the levers of power in county government,” said Zisa. “The vast Bergen County Democratic machine is trying to impose its will on the clerk’s office and on East Rutherford — and we will not let them do that,” said Zisa.
“Jeff Lahullier does not belong on the ballot as a Republican or as a Democrat,” said Zisa. “He was rejected by the party that supported him for many years and after he walked away from the party, he is trying to sneak on the ballot through the back door.”
Lahullier ran and lost in the June 5 Republican Primary Election for borough council. He switched parties two weeks later and was named to run as a Democrat for borough council after the Democratic candidate vacated the party ticket.
After local Republican candidates Joel Brizzi and Tom Banca saw Democratic campaign signs bearing Lahullier’s name, Brizzi contacted the County Clerk John Hogan, saying that Lahuillier’s candidacy violates state law. The clerk’s office at first agreed with Brizzi and Banca, sending Brizzi a letter last Wednesday saying Lahullier’s candidacy was invalid.
The following day the clerk’s office sent another letter to Brizzi saying the previous letter was sent “in error” and that the office was withholding judgment until Lahullier had a chance to make his case through his attorney; which he did earlier this week.
Thursday Hogan’s office notified Brizzi saying it would refrain at this time from removing Lahullier from the ballot — “in light of the unresolved ambiguity in this application”
“According to our attorneys there is no ambiguity regarding Mr. Lahullier’s candidacy,” said Zisa. “He was rejected in the Republican Primary by East Rutherford voters and he doesn’t get another shot for the office that he has been already rejected for.”
“It seems clear to me Mr. Brizzi will prevail in this matter,” said Brizzi’s attorney Matthew Gilson, “Despite Hogan’s attempt to politicize his office, the statute prohibiting Mr. Lahullier from being on the ballot is clear on its face and has been upheld by the courts in the past.”
Brizzi said the drama surrounding Lahullier’s candidacy is disheartening and confusing to local voters.
” The borough does not need the kind of politics that Jeff Lahullier is engaging in right now, “said Brizzi.
“Jeff’s desperation to stay in office, where he will do the bidding of county and local politicians — who operate behind the scenes — is not representative of the kind of town that East Rutherford has been,” said Brizzi, a former councilman for 21 years.
“It’s frightening to imagine the kind of promises that have been made by all parties to this scheme and their impact on East Rutherford taxpayers,” said Brizzi.
Banca, who sits on the council with Lahullier, said Lahullier is damaging his credibility by trying to do an end run around the law.
“I believe Jeff has already done a lot of damage to himself and whatever integrity he thought he had,” said Banca. “I think that’s unfortunate for him.”