Judge nullifies Beach GOP vote, calls for open primary

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Point Pleasant Beach Stephen Reid [left] listens to Ocean County Judge Marlene Lynch Ford in Toms River on Wednesday [PATRICK REILLY/THE OCEAN STAR]

TOMS RIVER — Neither of the candidates who ran for the endorsement of the Point Pleasant Beach Regular Republican Club will receive that endorsement, instead both will run in an open primary without a party line on June 4, an Ocean County judge ruled on Wednesday.

Judge Marlene Lynch Ford nullified the contested March 25 Republican Club election, in which incumbent Mayor Stephen Reid defeated challenger Councilman Paul Kanitra by five votes, 115 to 110.

Judge Ford said Wednesday that “so many irregularities would warrant a new election,” however, with the issue being so time-pressed with the primary less than two months away she was taking a “solomonic approach,” ruling the primary will be open.

“I’m confident the smart voters of Point Pleasant Beach don’t need a party line to select a candidate,” she said in the small courtroom where several of the parties involved made statements.

The validity of the March 25 vote was challenged by members of the club, and two claims were filed by Councilman Kanitra and Republican Club Chairman Kevin Riordan opposing the outcome, claiming the club failed to follow its own constitution and bylaws in the process.  

The complaints, which were consolidated into one complaint, alleged the club did not follow its bylaws by accepting 290 club applicants, who were accepted without the traditional membership committee and vetting process, and some of whom were allegedly registered as Democrats, independents, registered out of town or unregistered.

The bylaws of the club do not require that a member must be a registered Republican, but must simply support the interests of the club and its candidates.

Before the meeting on March 25 , Councilman Kanitra, Councilman Toohey and then-club President David Nicola decided on a list of names of 48 longstanding “legacy members,” who would vote on whether to accept the new members of the club.

Mr. Riordan told Judge Lynch Ford Wednesday that Councilman Toohey and Councilman Kanitra violated the club’s constitution by instituting arbitrary rules in what he called an “inappropriate and improper procedure.”x

Representing Mayor Reid, attorney Tim Howes questioned, “Where is the law?” in regard to a decision of a private unincorporated association like the Regular Republican Club.

Mr. Riordan asked the judge where else he would go to enforce the outcome, saying if she could not enforce the outcome then nobody could.

Judge Ford ruled that although the club is a private organization, it should still follow its directives, and the new club member application process was not followed. She said she did not see any case of party raiding, since the club does not restrict other parties from joining,

This is an excerpt of the print article. For more on this story, read The Ocean Star—on newsstands Friday or online in our e-Edition.