HOBOKEN – It’s not over ‘til it’s over. Although a New Jersey Appellate Court overturned the ruling of Hoboken Judge Peter Bariso barring Hoboken Housing Authority Executive Director Carmelo Garcia from running for a General Assembly seat in the upcoming June primaries, the lawyer for the plaintiffs in the case said Wednesday that his clients would attempt to take the case all the way to the New Jersey Supreme Court.
“We’re of the opinion that this is not yet over,” said Flavio Komuves, who is representing the five Hoboken residents who sued Garcia on the grounds that he was barred from running in a partisan election because part of his salary at the Housing Authority is funded by federal grants.
Komuves said that he would be filing a stay motion with the Appellate Court today, which would mean that the effects of its decision (for example, the printing of ballots that included Garcia’s name) would be temporarily voided until an appeal could be filed with a higher court.
The legal argument in the suit is based on the New Jersey Administrative Code, which mirrors the federal Hatch Act, barring federally-funded employees from running in partisan elections. But a 2012 amendment to the Hatch Act made it easier to for employees like Garcia to run. Garcia and his lawyer argued in the appeal that the state code simply hadn’t caught up to federal law.
Garcia is on a slate with Union City Mayor and State Sen. Brian Stack and Jersey City Deputy Mayor Raj Mukherji. He will be running against, amongst others, Hoboken City Councilman-at-Large Ravinder “Ravi” Bhalla, who some have speculated is behind the original suit against Garcia. Bhalla, however, has disputed that claim.
Often the winner of the Democratic primary goes on to win the general election in November.
The 33rd District includes Hoboken, Union City, Weehawken, and part of Jersey City. There is one state Senate representative in each district, and two Assembly representatives. – Dean DeChiaro