As appeals court weighs decision on Mosquera, lawmakers join the fray

As an appeals court prepares to decide the fate of 4th District Assembly candidate Gabriel Mosquera, Democratic lawmakers around the state railed against the ruling that nullified her November election win.

A Superior Court judge Thursday wiped out the results of her election because she had not lived in the district for the required one year prior to November.

Mosquera’s lawyer has appealed and is seeking emergent relief in order to get Mosquera reinstated in time for Tuesday’s swearing in.  But several prominent Democrats also are weighing in on the case, saying the ruling by Judge George Leone will disenfranchise the 19,000 plus voters who supported Mosquera in November. 

“For the first time in the modern history of New Jersey, a Superior Court judge overturned a legislative election based on the qualifications of a South Jersey woman – Gabriella Mosquera – who already was elected and certified to serve in the General Assembly by the voters of the 4th district beginning Tuesday,” dozens of Democratic elected officials said in an open letter distributed Sunday. “Consider the following. Not only did this Judge disregard a ten-year-old opinion from the United States District Court of New Jersey, the Judge also rejected the opinion of the Secretary of State, New Jersey’s top election official, and ignored New Jersey’s Attorney General that the one-year district requirement should be rejected.”

The letter was signed by nearly 100 federal, state and local officials, including U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews and Senate President Steve Sweeney. Other lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and state Democratic Party Chairman John Wisniewski, have weighed in with statements decrying the ruling.

“The federal court has been consistent and clear on the rights of Assemblywoman Elect Mosquera’s to have the voters decide on her fitness to serve in office. I am deeply concerned by this unprecedented decision by the court to overrule the will of over 21,000 registered voters in New Jersey’s fourth legislative district who join with me in believing that Ms. Mosquera is the most qualified candidate,” Menendez said in a statement.

Mosquera’s residency was challenged by her opponent in the race, Shirley Lovett, who finished third behind Mosquera and Assemblyman Paul Moriarty.  But despite her objection, the ruling puts her no closer to the Assembly as Leone ruled Democrats may fill the seat with an appointee until November when a special election will be held to fill the second year of the term.

But though Lovett is a Republican, she did not have the backing of the state Attorney General in her suit as the AG weighed in alongside Mosquera, saying that the requirment has not been enforced in the ten years since another federal judge declared it unconstitutional.

If the ruling is not overturned, Mosquera will likely be appointed to fill the seat anyway as she has now reached the one-year requirement.   As appeals court weighs decision on Mosquera, lawmakers join the fray