Incumbent Morris County Freeholder Margaret Nordstrom will once again be her party's nominee in the November general election.
Nordstrom won the nomination 213-208 in a special GOP county committee election Monday night, narrowly defeating challenger William "Hank" Lyon. The victory was a reversal from just a few months ago, when the 23-year-old Lyon appeared to narrowly defeat Nordstrom in a primary election that has since been overturned.
Monday night's election by the Morris County Republican Committee was ordered by Superior Court Judge Thomas Weisenbeck last week, following a three-week trial. Nordstrom had contested Lyon's apparent 4-vote win (after recounts) in the June primary, saying the race was tainted by voter fraud and a campaign donation that hadn't been properly reported.
The vote will allow the Morris County clerk's office to meet legal deadlines for getting general election ballots printed.
Lyon of Montville has filed an appeal of Weisenbeck's verdict, which is expected to be heard on an expedited basis by an appeals panel in Trenton. He expressed confidence Monday he would win the appeal.
As things stand now, Nordstrom of Washington Township will face Democrat Truscha Quatrone of Montville in the general election.
After Monday's vote, Nordstrom said the winner of the process was the state of New Jersey.
"This means that the [Election Law Enforcement Commission] rules have teeth," she said. Every candidate and campaign taking part in the fall election should pay attention to the judge's decision, she said.
Lyon, in a strident, impassioned speech prior to the vote, said, "This is the most important day of my 23 years."
The arguments presented in the nomination and seconding speeches echoed the points made by Nordstrom and Lyon themselves. Supporters of the former said the election was tainted by illegal votes in Parsippany, and by a $16,000 contribution made by Lyon's father and campaign treasurer, Robert Lyon, that hadn't been properly reported. Supporters of latter said no previous New Jersey election had ever been voided by a judge, and that the vote by the Republican committee, while legal, deprived the voters of their say in the election.
County Chairman John Sette reminded the committee members before the vote that under state law, the judge was within his rights to turn the election over to the committee.
That was the point of Sam Morris of Mine Hill, who nominated Lyon.
"If this election is overturned," Morris said, "you are saying that those four votes don't count."
Lyon repeated that message, declaring that the committee was voting on the matter because "an unelected judge" made a ruling that the election was void.
Lyon said Wesenbeck did not have the authority to overturn the election; the same argument is the basis of his appeal. He said Deputy Attorney General Alan C. Stephens filed two legal briefs that support that position.
Nordsrom and Washington Township Mayor Ken Short, who placed Nordstrom's name in nomination, said Republicans abide by the rule of law.
Nordstrom said that if Lyon had been on the short end of the 4-vote margin, he, too, would have appealed the outcome.
She said his father violated the state's campaign finance laws, by exceeding campaign contribution limits by thousands of dollars, and by not reporting the contribution as required by law. Defending her campaign against such action was required, she said.
"This is [what] I believe I stand for, this is what Morris County stands for, and this is what the Republican Party stands for," she said.
Former Morris Freeholder Jim Murray, who upset a popular incumbent to win his one-term on the board, said that all candidates have to abide by the law when they are running for office.