The Little Ferry Democratic machine has a unanimous vice-lock on the local government. However, on June 3, 2008, they found out that they had a problem. On the filing deadline, independent candidates filed to run for borough council. These independents were a threat because one of them was Debbie Ferrante-Rivera, a former two-term councilwoman and a former member of the Democratic Party. All of a sudden their monopoly was in jeopardy.
So what did the machine decide to do about their little problem? They tried to use their superior muscle and keep Ms. Ferrante-Rivera off of the ballot.
The machine filed a petition challenge against Ms. Ferrante-Rivera, despite the fact that her petition was valid in form and contained almost double the number of signatures needed for nomination. New Jersey election law provides that a challenge to an independent nominating petition will be heard by a hearing officer appointed by the county clerk. In this case, the hearing officer was a former Superior Court judge who has over three decades experience in election law. After a three hour hearing, the hearing officer ruled that the petition was valid, and that Ms. Ferrante-Rivera would appear on the ballot in the general election.