NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Jad Kaado’s petition to run for one of three seats open on the local Board of Education was not accepted by the board administrator.
So, Kaado is turning to state officials to determine if his petition should be accepted.
Specifically, he is asking them to determine if he filed his petition in a timely manner.
To do that, they will have to consider the ramifications of Gov. Phil Murphy’s Executive Order 105, which moved the April 21 election to May 12 and made it a mail-only vote in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Does Murphy’s order also move the deadline to file a petition?
Do the three incumbents, Vice President Dale Caldwell, Emra Seawood and Patricia Varela, retain their seats or vacate them between the original April election and the May one?
And, most importantly to Kaado, will his 11-signature petition be deemed valid although he filed it after the original March 2 deadline? Will he be allowed to join fellow Students First ticket members Linda “Lindy” Stork and Reginald “Reggie” Parker on the ballot?
New Jersey Appleseed, a nonprofit public interest law center that works pro bono on social justice causes, has written a letter to some of New Jersey’s highest-ranking officials seeking clarification.
In a letter dated March 26 addressed to Secretary of State Tahesha Way and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, the center’s executive director Renee Steinhagen argues that New Brunswick Board of Education Administrator and Secretary Richard Jannarone should have accepted Kaado’s petition.
In the letter, Steinhagen cites N.J.S.A. 19:60-7 – a state election statute that mandates that petitions be filed with the secretary of the board of education on or before 4 p.m. of the 50th day preceding the date of the April school election.
“Nothing in the language of the statute mandates that the submission deadline be set in stone, and not movable based on the time the election is actually held,” Steinhagen writes in the letter.
Since Kaado’s petition was filed March 23 – 51 days before the May 12 election - it should be accepted and he should appear on the ballot, Steinhagen writes.
TAPinto New Brunswick reached out to Jannarone for a comment and was directed by a spokesperson to contact the county elections board. The elections board has not responded to an email from TAPinto New Brunswick seeking comment.
When asked at a press conference last week about Executive Order 105 and whether incumbents’ terms should be extended till the May 12 election, Murphy replied: “I really didn’t give it four seconds of thought. I’m not trying to be glib about it. I did know this, that for the safety of our citizens, for the election process, to make sure that we did this the right way we had to at least defer the March and April elections to May 12th on the days that otherwise the nonpartisans would be taking place.”
There’s no telling when – or even if – Way, Grewal or Murphy will make a determination as to Kaado’s candidacy.
For now, Kaado, who tried to join the Students First ticket after Jerry Mercado withdrew, is proceeding as if he will be on the ballot.
Kaado is a lifelong New Brunswick resident who earned a degree at Rutgers before earning a master’s degree in archeology from the University of Toronto. He has worked at archeological sites in Jordan, Syria and Turkey. He has also been a writer, a journalist and taught at Rutgers.
“I come from a family of academics, so I really value education,” he said. “And I understand the importance of a public school system, especially during this time. So, I also believe that no one should run unopposed. I'm very much against that idea. I'm very adamant that there always should be opposition whenever there are elections. I think that's something that's very essential to the democratic process. I think that's something that's very fundamental to the United States and our identity as a nation that is democratic in practice.”
Even if Kaado does not appear on the ballot, he can of course be a write-in candidate.