This is an action to enjoin individuals who hold the position of chairman of county and municipal Democratic committees*fn1 from participating in primary elections for public office. It raises the unyet passed upon question of the application of N.J.S.A. 19:34-52 to individuals.
Plaintiff John P. Gillen and defendant Peter J. DiNardo are rivals in the June 3, 1980 primary election for the Democratic party nomination for the office of sheriff of Hudson County. Defendant Walter N. Sheil is the chairman of the Hudson County Democratic Committee. Gillen is the incumbent sheriff; DiNardo apparently enjoys the support of Sheil.
Plaintiff contends that Sheil, in his role as chairman, by the use of a selection committee and through public statements and speeches, instigated and supported the candidacy of DiNardo and has, by marshalling Democratic ward leaders, municipal chairmen, and elected officials, caused the Democratic organization to support the candidacy of DiNardo -- all in violation of
N.J.S.A. 19:34-52, a statute barring committee endorsement of primary candidates. Plaintiff seeks to remove Sheil as county chairman; to enjoin Sheil and the municipal chairmen from using party assets or making public statements in support of DiNardo or from publishing any material claiming DiNardo to be the candidate of the regular Democratic organization; to enjoin Sheil and the municipal chairman from active participation in the primary election campaign; to enjoin Sheil, the municipal chairmen and the committees from endorsing or participating in the DiNardo primary campaign, and to remove DiNardo's name from the ballot on the ground that his nomination to the primary was accomplished by the claimed statutory violation -- that it was the fruit of legislatively proscribed political activity.*fn2
In a second count plaintiff contends that defendant DiNardo's name will be bracketed with other "regular organization" candidates and that such bracketing is not authorized by law in the absence of a joint nominating petition or primary in which there is more than one candidate to be elected to the same office or at least two county offices for which there are candidates. DiNardo was nominated on his own petitions, and sheriff is the only county office to be filled at the next general election. Plaintiff seeks an order enjoining defendant James F. Quinn, the county clerk, from bracketing the candidates for sheriff with other candidates and to require a random drawing for positions of the sheriff candidates on the ballot.
N.J.S.A. 19:34-52 provides:
No state, county or municipal committee of any political party shall prior to any primary election indorse the candidacy of any candidate for a party nomination or position.
It has been held to bar a county committee from creating a screening committee to select primary candidates. Cavanagh v. Morris Cty. Democratic Comm. , 121 N.J. Super. 430 (Ch.Div.1972).
Its application to the individuals who comprise a political committee has not been judicially examined. The Attorney General has, however, expressed a formal opinion that the legislative bar is limited to the ...