MONTVILLE, NJ – Montville Township Committee Member and current Deputy Mayor Frank Cooney’s three-year term expires on Dec. 31 of this year, and he is running for re-election. Democrat Emily Ryzuk submitted a petition to run against him early in April, but was removed from the ballot soon after.

Township resident Lisa LoBiondo submitted a letter to Montville Township Clerk and the Morris Board of Elections challenging the petition due to “multiple infringements and violations” on Ryzuk’s petition, “either intentionally or not.”

The Montville Township Democratic Committee circulated Ryzuk’s petition at their Feb. 12 meeting, at which Congressional candidate Mikie Sherrill also spoke, and Democrats from across the Congressional district signed the petition. Since only Montville Township residents can sign the petition for Montville Township Committee candidate, Democratic Committee head Dan Grant and Ryzuk went through the petition pages and crossed off names that were invalid. When they were finished, they had 45, one more than the 44 required by Morris County Clerk Ann Grossi, Grant said.

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What they did not do, is check voter registrations, which LoBiondo did. She found that two of the names on the petition were registered as Republicans, and one was not registered at all. She further challenged 13 names on the petition pages.

Montville Township Clerk Leena Abaza went through the petition and validated two contested names; however, she deemed the petition invalid since the total signatures reached a final count of 42. Abaza notified Ryzuk shortly thereafter.

Grant said he takes full responsibility for the error as he is the head of the party and has been in politics for many years.

“This was the result of my inattention,” he told TAPinto Montville.

The Democratic Committee will be mounting a write-in campaign for Ryzuk for the Tuesday, June 5 primary.

Ryzuk called the petition invalidation “a disappointment, but not insurmountable.”

“At our February Democratic Committee meeting, we had a wonderful turnout due, in large part, to our guest Mikie Sherrill,” she told TAPinto Montville. “In the excitement, my petition was passed around the meeting and unanimously signed. After the meeting, we discovered a fair amount of out-of-town guests had supported me. Still, we had slightly over the number of Montville signatures necessary, so we turned in our petition. It wasn’t until the petition was challenged that we were made aware that a few Republicans had signed the petition and dropped our valid signatures below the requirement. It was an honest error – how were we to guess that Republicans would be at our monthly meeting and signing petitions?

“That said, I’m not going to be discouraged by this,” Ryzuk said. “We have a strong presence in town and there are a number of residents who very much support my run for office – both Republicans and Democrats! We will be doing a write-in campaign at the primary. It’s actually quite exciting to be a part of! 

“Our hope is that by putting a strong, young, fair-minded and fiscally conservative Democrat on the Township Committee, we will not only challenge the echo chamber of status quo party politics, but also begin to accurately represent the changing political makeup of our township. There is no doubt in my mind that this is going to be an exciting election!”

Cooney told TAPinto Montville, “Right now there is no Democratic candidate listed on the ballot for the primary election this June. The Democratic candidate petition, which needed 44 signatures of Montville Township residents, was signed by people who did not live in our town and therefore was disqualified. It now seems obvious that the inexperience of the Democratic candidate will cause the Democrats to write in a name on primary day to have a candidate on the ballot in November.

“I have never run unopposed, and I stand on my record as a lifelong resident, educated in the Montville Township school system and a retired member of the Montville Township Police Department.

“I am finishing my first term and look forward to continuing my work on stable taxes, building and town maintenance and most importantly continuing my effort with the Police Explorers and Drug Awareness Council.”

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