BARNEGAT, NJ –Barnegat Mayor John Novak holds to his belief he saw all the signs leading to a congressional run. His withdrawal from the race and support of David Richter doesn’t mean it’s all over. As far as Novak’s concerned, he just won’t be on the 2020 ballot.
“I am not running this cycle,” confirmed Novak. “I have to see what the Lord has the store for me as far as the future.”
On April 7th, Novak announced that he was withdrawing his congressional bid and endorsing Richter. Election laws require political candidates to submit petitions following particular requirements. When Richter challenged Novak’s petition, the Barnegat mayor learned that some of his signatures were ineligible. Since he now had an insufficient number of signatures, Novak withdrew from the race.
The day following Novak’s withdrawal, Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order 120. Amid concerns that residents needed to stay at home with limited exceptions, Murphy moved the primary election from June 2 to July 7th.
Executive Order 120 did not include any language extending the petition deadlines to correspond to the new primary date. In fact, Murphy’s mandate said the original petition dates would apply. For Novak, an attorney, it seemed like the governor decided to ignore the state constitution.
“I don’t know if he consulted with the attorney general’s office,” Novak said. ‘Or, if Murphy just decided to rebuke their advice.”
According to Novak, the legislature is the branch of government that determines statutory guidelines. As the executive branch, Murphy did not have the power to change the petition submittals/corrections from 64 to 98 days. Based on what he saw as violative of the separation of powers, Novak filed an Order to Show Cause seeking an injunction against the governor.
“Whether it’s coincidence or not, the statute was changed right after I filed my lawsuit,” shared Novak. “I question if the governor would have obeyed the constitution if it wasn’t for me.”
The bill assigning the dates relative to the primary election wasn’t passed until April 14, 2020, days after Novak filed suit.
The result is that the statute correlates with the governor’s mandate, and Novak’s petition remains invalid. In the meantime, Novak contends he’s still due attorneys’ fees.