Guadagno tries to get GOP rival in N.J. governor's race tossed off the ballot

By Brent Johnson | NJ Advance Media for
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on April 10, 2017


Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (left) and state Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (right) are shown in file photos.


TRENTON -- Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli on Monday survived an attempt by rival Kim Guadagno to knock him off the GOP primary ballot. 

Supporters of Guadagno, New Jersey's lieutenant governor, filed a complaint that questioned the validity of more than 700 petition signatures Ciattarelli had handed in to qualify for the June 6 primary for the GOP nod to succeed Gov. Chris Christie, who is in his final year in office. 

But an administrative law judge on Monday threw out only about 180 of those signatures, which wasn't enough to boot Ciattarelli, a member of the state Assembly from Somerset County.

The complaint against Ciatarelli's campaign was then withdrawn, and the Ciatarelli campaign withdrew a counter-complaint asking the state to take a look at Guadagno's signatures.

Ciattarelli called Guadagno's move "both desperate and sad."

"Moreover, trying to save her candidacy by forcing taxpayers to foot the bill for this 11th hour 'Hail Mary' is a disgrace," he said in a statement. "Perhaps the lieutenant governor is coming to the realization that a typical politician devoid of any specific ideas or plans to fix our state is a troubled candidate."

Guadagno's campaign said it is technically a group of "registered voters" aligned with her that filed the complaint with the state Division of Elections. 

Gubernatorial candidates are required to file at least 1,000 petition signatures to qualify for the primaries for the Democratic and Republican nominations for governor. The deadline was last Monday. 

Ciattarelli handed in 1,674 signatures. But the complaint challenged the validity of 723 of those signatures -- including Ciattarelli's.

"Challenges like this are meant to make sure candidates play by the rules," said Ricky Diaz, a spokesman for the Guadagno campaign, who stressed that "over 10 percent of their signatures were thrown out because they were invalid or duplicates."

"Stuck in the low single digits in the polls, the Ciattarelli campaign is clearly struggling to get their act together and looking to point fingers and blame someone else for their weak showing," Diaz added. 

Chris Russell, a strategist for Ciattarelli's campaign, said Gugadno's campaign was questioning the signatures of figures such as Somerset County Sheriff Frank Provenzano and Hunterdon County Freeholder candidate Shaun Van Doren, among "countless other GOP elected officials and leaders around the state."

"This a ham-handed attempt to slow our momentum and it shows real desperation by a candidate who expected to be given the nomination instead of earning it," Russell said. 

Guadagno and Ciatarelli are the only two Republicans in a five-person race who have been announced as participants in the first of two state-sponsored debates on May 9.

Candidates get on the debate stage by qualifying for state-matching grants. Guadagno has qualified and Ciatarelli's campaign has announced he's raised enough money to qualify and is awaiting approval by the Election Law Enforcement Commission.  

A spokesperson for the state Division of Elections did not immediately return a message seeking comment Monday. 

As lieutenant governor, Guadagno actually oversees the election division. But she announced earlier this year that she would not weigh in on any matters related to the gubernatorial race. 

Last month, a Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll showed Guadagno leading the GOP with 24 percent of the vote, followed by Ciattarelli with 4 percent.

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