WASHINGTON TWP. The Washington Township GOP and its three endorsed candidates for the town council are asking a court to immediately review a complaint against the embattled council president and his primary election petition.
In a suit filed Monday, the Republican Executive Committee's candidates - Nicholas Fazzio, Joseph Micucci, and Christine Bailey - allege that Giancarlo D'Orazio's petition has as many as 16 signatures that should be not valid.
The issue was presented this month before Township Clerk Jill McCrea, who dismissed several signatures for various reasons. The candidates are arguing that still more ineligible signatures, specifically of those people said to be registered as unaffiliated, would leave the candidates short of the 50 signatures required to run in the June 2 primary.
The candidates are seeking nominations to run for three of the council's five seats on the ballot in November. Only D'Orazio is seeking reelection.
McCrea, who said she conferred with the township solicitor, wrote that "the unaffiliated voters' signatures on the petition are valid," citing a section of state law that says petitioners must be "legally qualified to vote for such candidates and pledge themselves to support and vote for the persons."
But the committee-backed candidates' attorney, Stephen Altamuro, argued that state law indicates that signatures must be from party members.
"It can't be more clear," Altamuro said.
D'Orazio, whose split with the party has been highly publicized, said Monday, "I'm past that. I have to respond to whatever comes my way, but I'm concentrated on the campaign."
Altamuro said he hoped the case goes before a judge this week.
Gloucester County Clerk James Hogan, who is named in the suit as having an interest in the case, said that the ballot information for municipalities was sent to the printer Monday. The mail-in ballots are printed early to ensure that military members and others overseas can vote in time for the June 3 primary.
If a court invalidates the petition, Hogan said, it is likely that one of the parties would be required to pay for reprinted ballots if printing had started.
"The court makes that decision," he said.
Hogan would not make speak about whether unaffiliated voters are permitted to sign primary petitions.
"I'm going to be very careful about what I say," he said, citing the lawsuit. "I'd rather not comment further."
The suit also states that the name of D'Orazio's running mate, Robert Maloney, was not on the petition before the slate acquired some signatures. McCrea, in her findings, said the complainants had not provided evidence to support that claim. McCrea is a Democrat who was appointed to her position.
D'Orazio gained the council presidency with the votes of the two Democrats on the governing body. The Democrats also have clashed internally regarding the primary.
A suit by three candidates who are running without the Democratic Executive Committee's support - John Daly, Fire Chief John Hoffman, and Scott Dzierzgowski - had sought to get the committee-endorsed trio out of the regular party "line."
After the parties agreed to dismiss the suit last week, the county's Democratic committee said the township committee's candidates - Angela Donato, Sean Longfellow, and Albert Frattali - would get the line.