ROSELLE, NJ — The municipal clerk threw out objections made by a 2nd Ward council candidate’s campaign manager contesting the candidacy petitions of two incumbents running for re-election.
Anthony Esposito, campaign manager for Brandon Bernier, filed residency and signature objections against the petitions made by 2nd Ward Councilwoman Carla Walker and 5th Ward Councilman Samuel Bishop to run in the June 5 primary election.
Esposito said Bishop’s petition should have been voided since he did not print his name on it, although he did sign it. Municipal Deputy Clerk Lydia Massey wrote in an April 9 letter to Esposito that she would not void Bishop’s petition since the omission was “a mere technical deficiency.”
“While he may not have printed his name on the petition, this is but a mere technical deficiency that does not require a rejection of his petition,” Massey wrote. “Election laws are to be liberally construed so as to effectuate their purpose. They should not be construed to deprive voters of their franchise so as to effectuate their purpose.”
Bishop made a brief comment about Esposito’s challenge, simply stating, “The last thing that I will ever do is give a person who seeks my attention my attention.”
Esposito also pointed out that Walker had a different address on her candidacy petition than on her November voter registration, and alleged that she may have lived out of district at some point during the last four months.
The Union County Board of Elections confirmed to LocalSource that Walker had updated her address on her voter registration March 28.
“So where was she from November to March 28?” Esposito asked in an April 11 phone interview.
Candidates must live in the ward in which they are running for at least one year prior to the election, according to state statute.
If Walker moved out of the district at some point, Esposito said she could be disqualified from appearing on the ballot.
Walker did not respond to requests for comment before press time this week. However, former mayor and current state Assemblyman Jamel Holley endorsed the two incumbents and called Esposito’s claims against Walker “abusive” and “revolting.”
“Making some frivolous claim that Carla Walker can not seek re-election to the 2nd Ward seat because she moved from one house to another in that ward is nothing short of abusive,” Holley wrote in an April 12 email.
The assemblyman represents District 20, which includes Elizabeth, Hillside, Roselle and Union.
“Esposito needs to stop going after women in Roselle who want to be public servants. Councilwoman Walker has been a tremendous asset to the borough council. She is likely one of the best 2nd Ward representatives we have had in years,” Holley said. “She supports families and works to create a tighter community fabric in Roselle — something that Esposito apparently does not support.
“Esposito’s latest stunt is revolting and further underscores his lack of respect for the women of Roselle.”
Esposito denied this charge, saying in an April 13 phone call with LocalSource, “I have been contemplating suing (Holley) for defamation because of all the lies he’s perpetrated against me.”
Esposito’s challenge to Walker’s petition also charged that Massey should recuse herself as clerk from reviewing his objection since she and Walker are cousins.
Massey, in her April 9 letter to Esposito, said that Walker is not a member of her “immediate family,” so she is not required to abstain from handling the matter.
“Councilwoman Walker is not my spouse or dependent child residing in my household, she is not deemed an immediate family member which would require my recusal from the petition validation process,” Massey wrote.
Esposito’s only recourse would be to challenge the issues he raised in state Superior Court, although he said he would not do that.
“It’s going to be very very very difficult” to challenge in court, Esposito said. “The entire burden of proof is on me, so I can’t get the documents to prove it.”
Bernier is running for the 2nd Ward seat, while John Fortuna is running for 5th Ward seat.
Both are challenging the incumbents for the Democratic nominations.