Recount almost wrapped for Gloucester GOP

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They took two seats under the protection of one of the most powerful Democrats in New Jersey last month, now Republican Freeholders-elect Larry Wallace and Vince Nestore are set to do it again.

A Democrat-requested recall in the Gloucester County freeholder race will be finalized early tomorrow and most likely reconfirm the Election Day truth: the once-forgotten GOP took two seats from the all-Democratic board.

State Senate Pres. Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) still sits on the board as chairman – although he promised to resign his dual office holding this year – and will meet with Wallace and Nestore either Thursday or Friday to begin transition.

With no change on the machine counts, the Gloucester Board of Elections has roughly 1,000 of 7,000 vote-by-mail ballots to review tomorrow before calling the race for a second time.

Nestore said, “I’m going to be able to win twice in one election. I may even get a couple more votes this time.”

Gloucester GOP chairman Bill Fey wasn’t so quick to call it, “So far so good.”

All of the big towns in Gloucester have been counted, some numerous times over, he said. The first vote count ended with Wallace and Nestore ahead of Democratic challenger Heather Simmons by 1,000 and 200 votes, respectively.

“It’s in a very small plus or minus margin of error,” Fey said.

A judge disallowed the introduction of 37 vote-by-mail ballots put forth by the Gloucester Democrats because they were submitted after the voting deadline.

The transition for Wallace and Nestor into enemy territory will now begin.

“I wouldn’t say they rolled out the red carpet for us right away,’ Wallace said. “I ask a question, I get an answer. There really has been no official transition, so to speak.”

“We’re going to have each others backs,” Nestore said, but, “We’re going in there with the intent of working with these guys.”

The freeholder board under Sweeney’s leadership was slapped with a court-appointed monitor this year for repeatedly violating the Open Public Meetings Act over the course of years. It was Fey and Wallace who led the charge to bring the Sunshine Law circumvention to light, but, as Wallace said, “It didn’t exactly go off as planned.”

The monitor, remarking on how well run the county government is, voluntarily gave up the position a month ago before the six month oversight period was complete.

“They’re a model of open government right now,” Nestore mockingly recounted Sweeney pronouncing when the monitor left.

At the very next meeting, Wallace said, a few important resolutions where not given any description on the agenda or explanation from the board before as vote was taken.

Among the actions taken was an appointment to the Gloucester County College Board of Trustees and a resolution regarding the videotaping of public meetings.

Wallace said they snuck these votes through before he and Nestore could join the board, even though he asked the sitting freeholders to table the measures until 2011.

“I’m sure by no coincidence when the monitor was appointed agenda items got very descriptive,” Wallace said. “Everything had a description.”

The initial Sunshine complaint was largely based on the board conducting closed sessions where discussions were had and votes were taken outside of public viewing.

The monitor never attended a closed session meeting, Wallace said, granted that he would have needed permission from the court to do so.

“It’s the irony of all ironies,” he said. “That’s the meat and potatoes of the complaint.”

Recount almost wrapped for Gloucester GOP