Am subbing today for Rosi who is unable to provide your usual dose of roundup.
UPDATE: two items recommended by Rosi:
Am subbing today for Rosi who is unable to provide your usual dose of roundup.
UPDATE: two items recommended by Rosi:
There’s been a lot of discussion about the fact that Tom MacArthur, a resident of Morris County, is carpetbagging in his attempt to represent parts of Burlington and Ocean Counties in Congress. In public forums, MacArthur consistently brushes this off by claiming that he has had a home in Ocean County for the past nine years. But that’s not the whole story.
Events today: Board of State Canvassers meets to certify the results of last month’s general election, noon, in the Statehouse Annex’s Committee Room 5. Communications Workers of America union endorses Councilman Ras Baraka in the Newark mayoral election, 12:30pm at CWA Local 1037′s office in Newark. Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey, 9:15am holds its annual summit, with speakers Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera and union executive Milly Silva, 11:30am, Crowne Plaza Monroe, South Brunswick. U.S. Sen. Cory Booker visits Cumberland County.
Where Are They Today?
Gov. Chris Christie resigned his job as New Jersey’s U. S. Attorney in 2009 to become governor. He brought with him an extraordinarily large number of former staff members from the Attorney’s Office. Who are some of these people and where are they today?
Make of this what you will: A raiding of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Christie creating a “Law and Order” governor’s office, Christie finding comfort with loyal former employees, etc. These attorneys have played key (successful and unsuccessful) roles in Christie’s administration. However, in 2011 Christie with remarkable candor and bravado said, “It’s my agenda, It’s not Kevin’s agenda or Rich’s agenda or Charlie’s agenda, or Jeff’s agenda. It’s my agenda…”
In case you missed them, here are links to recent Blue Jersey interviews:
Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera
Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald
Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula on his congressional campaign
Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula on renewable energy
Democratic State Chairman John Wisniewski
Assemblyman John McKeon
Governor Jim Florio
The American Dream manifests itself in different ways. To some, the American Dream is to make tons of money, to others it is to answer a call to public service. Gabriela Mosquera fits into the latter category.
Even though this is an off-year in the New Jersey General Assembly election cycle, there are three special elections being conducted. Two of them are due to the deaths of incumbents and one, Mosquera’s, is due to Republican voter suppression.
In 2011, Mosquera and her running mate, the now-besmirched Paul Moriarty, handily beat their Republican opponents. But there was a problem. Or at least one created by Mosquera’s then- and current opponent, Shelley Lovett.
Mosquera had lived in the election district a few weeks shy of the twelve month residency requirement – a requirement that was struck down by the courts a decade prior. But the GOP persisted and got that court decision reversed (it has since been restored), nullifying the people’s choice. Lovett even had the chutzpah to suggest to the court that she should be declared the winner for coming in third.
Instead, the court decided to allow the Democratic committees to appoint someone to fill the seat until a special election could be conducted, and Mosquera was appointed, vindicating the voters’ choice.
Mosquera’s life story is compelling, and she discusses it in my interview conducted earlier today at the Camden County Democratic Headquarters. We also talked about some of the issues of the day – some national, some state-wide, and some specific to her Gloucester/Camden county district.
While the legislature undoubtedly made the biggest news of the day by finally passing marriage equality, the New Jersey Supreme Court handed down an important decision of its own this morning. By a narrow 4-3 margin, the court invalidated Gabriela Mosquera’s election to the State Assembly in the 4th district, because Mosquera did not live in the district for a year before election day as required by the state constitution. Nevertheless, the court ruled that the Democratic committee members will get to pick her replacement. Virtually everyone expects them to name the now-qualified Mosquera to fill the seat her disqualification left open, as she was just two months shy of the one year mark in November.
New Jersey election officials haven’t enforced the residency requirement since a federal court declared it unconstitutional and enjoined its enforcement in the 2001 case Robertson v. Bartels. But the federal injunction stops only state election officials from enforcing the requirement; it does not prevent private individuals, including disgruntled, litigation-minded runners-up, from doing so. So after Shelley Lovett lost at the ballot box by over 5,500 votes, she sued in state court seeking to have the election set aside. The case quickly worked its way up to the Supreme Court, which heard arguments late last month. In the meantime, the seat to which voters elected Mosquera in November has remained vacant.
To summarize, the court held:
The dissent disagrees with the majority’s equal protection analysis, particularly the way it handled facial challenge to the residency requirement, and also argues that the majority should have paid more heed to the consequences of conflicting decisions of the Federal District court in Robertson v. Bartels and its decision. But it directs its strongest criticism at retroactivity. Because the state had not enforced the residency requirement and had represented to candidates that it no longer applied, the majority’s decision effectively “change[s] the rules after the game has ended.” Applying its new rule to this completed election disenfranchises nearly 20,000 voters and violates an “elementary principle of fairness.”
A lot of things may be said about this decision; for lack of time, I’ll note just two.
First, the court at addressed the problem of two conflicting decisions on the constitutionality of the residency requirement by asking the parties to fix it:
The parties should apply to the federal district court or file a petition for a writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court to resolve the lingering principled conflict that exists between our declaration of the constitutionality of Article IV, Section 1, Paragraph 2 of the New Jersey Constitution and the federal injunction, as well as the practical effects of the differing conclusions.
I anticipate that the first chapter of any federal court sequel to this decision will begin with the Attorney General or Secretary of State asking the federal District Court to set aside the Robertson injunction. In other words, I do not think this case is bound for the Supreme Court. Mosquera appears to be the only party that clearly has any chance of getting certiorari (Lovett prevailed on federal equal protection issues and any federal questions the state might raise over the conflicting decisions and the Robertson injunction are better dealt with before the federal district court) the state might raise ). But New Jersey’s seat-filling mechanism moves much faster than the U.S. Supreme Court, so if what matters to Mosquera is getting seated, she need not litigate any further.
Second, the court’s opinion casts a cloud of uncertainty over post-election challenges to candidates in the first cycle after redistricting. Fortunately, the statutory time for challenges has passed. But if it hadn’t, someone like Reed Gusciora, who moved from Princeton to Trenton last summer so he could continue to represent the 15th district, would likely have faced a similar challenge to the one against Mosquera. While the court does suggest that it might be more sympathetic to a future candidate “actually affected by reapportionment,” potential candidates deserve to know more definitively where and when they may and may not run for office.
The legislature needs to clear up this cloud by defining a narrow, pre-election route that all post-redistricting, residency-based challenges to a candidate’s eligibility must follow. Currently, New Jersey law (NJSA 19:29-3) permits losing candidates to bring eligibility challenges up to 30 days after an election is over. If Lovett had to bring her challenge before the election, judicial nullfication of 20,000 votes would have been avoided.
In a late Friday order, the New Jersey Supreme Court set up further briefing and argument over the election of Gabriela Mosquera as Assemblywoman from the 4th District in November. The case now looks likely to be resolved after an oral argument before the Supreme Court on next Friday, January 27.
Ten days ago, the trial court, with a judge that was Chris Christie’s first appointee to the bench, ruled that Mosquera was ineligible to serve because, despite a federal court order stating that the residency requirement of one year living in district was invalid that both Mosquera and Secretary of State/Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno relied upon, that residency requirement applied to Mosquera. The Appellate Division last Monday reversed that order, finding reasonably that, because a court order was in place that set down what the law was, and everyone relied upon it, a court could not go back and change the rules after the game. Hours before Mosquera was to be sworn in, the Attorney General filed a brief reversing the Christie Administration’s earlier position that Mosquera was duly elected, and the Supreme Court held off Mosquera’s swearing in in response.
Now, the Supreme Court has stated that it will make a final determination on the matter, on January 27, after all sides have the chance to submit final briefs.
As deciminyan reported earlier, the Supreme Court vacated the Appellate Division’s order from yesterday allowing Gabriela Mosquera to do the job that she was elected by a majority of 4th District voters to do.
This decision was shocking, because as I wrote yesterday, the Appellate Division’s decision to allow Mosquera to be sworn in was by far the more conservative and common sense ruling. Mosquera relied on a decade-old federal court order and the certification of the Secretary of State (i.e. the Lieutenant Governor) that she was an eligible candidate. She won the election. And after the fact, her opponent decided that because she lost it would be a good time to challenge – instead of bringing the challenge, say, when the Secretary of State certified her as a candidate.
But something weird happened this morning.
I’m no fan of Gabriela Mosquera. She’s got limited experience and is just not ready to assume the role as a New Jersey Assemblywoman. She’s a loyal soldier to the South Jersey Democratic machine, and would not be an independent voice in the Assembly. If I lived in the district and were to ever vote for a Republican, Pat Fratticcoli, one of Mosquera’s opponents, would get my vote. But that’s not my call. Nineteen thousand voters in District 4 overwhelmingly selected Mosquera and her running mate Paul Moriarty over their opponents Fratticcioli and Shirley Lovett.
That’s why today’s Supreme Court decision is so troublesome. As the Gloucester County Times reported,
Minutes before the 215th Legislature – including the Fourth District’s Gabriela Mosquera – was set to be sworn into office today, a Supreme Court order issued a stay that keeps the Democrat Assemblywoman-elect from raising her right hand and taking her seat in the Assembly.
I’m no lawyer, and don’t have the insight of the testimony and evidence that the court heard, but for me as a citizen, their decision lacks common sense. Shirley Lovett, the top Republican vote getter, is contesting Mosquera’s victory based on an arcane residency requirement that was shot down by the Supreme Court a decade ago. And while the residency requirement is the law, it’s just plain wrong in my opinion.
The Democrats will continue their fight – after all, this is just a stay, not a disqualification. Let’s hope they prevail and the voices of the voters of the district are heard. And let’s hope that Gabby Mosquera grows into the job quickly and establishes herself as an independent advocate for Democratic ideals.
Score one for reasonable judges: the Appellate Division of the Superior Court has stayed a lower court decision and allowed Gabriela Mosquera, elected by the voters of the 4th District as their representative, to be sworn in tomorrow.
For those of you who hadn’t been following, as Stephen Yellin had reported here on Friday, Camden County judge George Leone, Chris Christie’s first judicial appointee after taking office and a longtime Christie colleague, had ruled Mosquera ineligible to be sworn in, overturning the conventional wisdom that the lawsuit filed by her opponent Shelley Lovett, who had lost to Mosquera by several thousand votes, was a sure loser.
The lawsuit centered on Mosquera having moved to the district less than a year before the election – which the New Jersey Constitution prohibits. However, a decade ago an order by Federal District Court Judge Dickinson Debevoise had found this requirement inconsistent with the federal Constitution, thus allowing Mosquera and others such as Reid Gusciora to run in districts that they had not lived in a year ago. The situation with Mosquera was indistinguishable from the case a decade ago – right after redistricting, offices got shuffled around and a new candidate wanted to run in a new district. Indeed, it’s hard to see the point of having a residency requirement in a district that, just a year before, hadn’t existed. (Note that this is different from the Carl Lewis case which focused on a different constitutional requirement about state, not district, residency).
More on the challenge below the fold…