After judge’s ruling, mayor running unopposed

Photo by Chris Sykes
From left, Team Irvington Strong teammates and 2018 at large Municipal Council candidates Councilwoman October Hudley, Councilwoman Renee Burgess and Councilwoman Charnette Frederic stand with Mayor Tony Vauss, right, as they turn in nominating petitions to run in the Tuesday, May 8, municipal election, in January, almost as soon as petitions became available, in Wiener’s office. The petitions were subsequently certified and all are on the May 8 ballot after
Wiener had a drawing on Monday, March 12.IRVINGTON, NJ — Mayor Tony Vauss will run for re-election uncontested.

Newark Superior Court Judge Tom Vena ruled Monday, April 2, that prospective mayoral candidate Elouise McDaniel and Allison Morris, her Municipal Council running mate, failed to get enough nominating petitions certified to be put on the ballot.

Vauss said he won’t take this election for granted and plans to continue campaigning hard, as if he were an underdog facing stiff competition from an organized opponent, even though there’s no competition to his candidacy or his Team Irvington Strong social and political organization’s dominance in town.

“It feels good, but I’m not even mentioning it,” said Vauss on Tuesday, April 3. “I’m running like I am being opposed on May 8. I don’t want the drop off. I don’t want people to take anything for granted.”

Vauss said he couldn’t ignore the historic context of this year’s election and what the lack of organized opposition to his re-election means for the Team Irvington Strong organization. This year’s campaign slogan is still Team Irvington Strong vs. Everyone though, because there’s still a lot of work left for him to do with four more years in office.

“This is the second time ever that a mayor is running for re-election unopposed,” Vauss said. “The first was Wayne Smith, back when he ran for re-election, and Craig Stanley was supposed to run against him. Once Stanley dropped out of that race, that was it. We plan to continue working hard, changing people’s perceptions about Irvington and making this town clean and safe for everyone.”

McDaniel and Morris needed to file 292 valid petitions by the filing deadline of Monday, March 5, deadline and get them certified by Wiener but, according to him, McDaniel and Morris were short by six and four petitions, respectively.

McDaniel and Morris filed an appeal with the Newark Superior Court, asking to present their arguments why their petitions should have been certified and why they should be on the ballot.

At their first hearing before Vena on Friday, March 16, no one from the township or the Clerk’s Office showed up, so he rescheduled it for Monday, April 2, which Irvington Clerk Harold Wiener attended with township attorney Ramon Rivera.

Rivera said the petition filing and appeal process, and how it played out, is proof the electoral process works.

“I just want to say that I believe the judge made the correct decision,” said Rivera on Tuesday, April 3. “He did a thorough analysis of all the facts and the law and he concluded that Ms. McDaniel and Ms. Morris failed to meet the required number of petitions to get on the ballot. They failed to give evidence to support their claim that their petitions should have been certified and they should be on the May 8 ballot.”

“As far as I’m concerned, Judge Vena said the case is over,” said Wiener. “In terms of the prospective candidates, I think they should be applauded for wanting to be involved in their community and they should not be discouraged by Judge Vena’s ruling. There will be other elections and, if they want to get involved again, they should.”

Rivera agreed with Wiener that the case was closed.

“The judge told them they had the opportunity up until March 19, to correct all the deficiencies and present it as evidence,” said Rivera. “He gave them an opportunity to go out and try to find these individuals. He dismissed both of the cases with prejudice, which means that they can’t file again. I believe he got it right.”

Rivera added that Vena offered McDaniel and Morris a bit of advice as well.

“The judge also noted that they got their petitions in at the last minute,” said Rivera. “They should have gotten them in earlier.”

McDaniel disagreed with Rivera and Wiener and vowed that “It is not over.” Then Thursday, April 5, McDaniel and Morris showed up at the Irvington NAACP monthly meeting with a petition they plan to circulate, asking Irvington’s registered voters to join them in protesting Vena’s ruling, which they consider to be unfair at best and possibly illegal at worst.

“We went to court and we were denied our chance of going on the ballot, so this is a petition going around to say what is happened and what is going on and what we’re trying to do to get on the ballot and make a positive change in Irvington,” said Morris on Thursday, April 5. “We were denied, so we’re putting out a petition so all the citizens can know what happened and they can get involved and know that we are still fighting the good fight.”

McDaniel echoed Morris’ sentiments and added, “I called the U.S. Department of Civil rights and they are working with us, because the judge didn’t give us a fair decision. Our petitions were there and we should have been put on the ballot, but we were not. So this petition is going around to just let everybody know what’s happened and we’re going to forward it to the United States Department of Civil Rights.”

McDaniel said that while Vena’s ruling might have been in accordance with a strict interpretation of state election law, it was not in keeping with the spirit of those laws, which she said are designed to empower people and facilitate participation in the electoral process.