When are nonpartisan elections really nonpartisan?
About 85 of New Jersey’s 566 municipalities have what is known as the nonpartisan system of local government and most hold their elections in the spring rather than in November. The municipalities range in size from large like the City of Newark to small as is the case of Hillside here in Union County. What makes their elections nonpartisan is that the candidates do not declare or do not formally have a political party affiliation. Though one can say that traditional party politics has been officially banded from the electoral process in these communities the reality of the situation is that partisan politics is actually alive and quite well.
In some towns it is not a secret which candidates are members of and supported by which party; these are “shadow organizations” of Democrats, Republicans and independents who support opposing candidates or slates of candidates. Sometimes coalition slates of candidates come together when there is a specific hot issue that is polarizing the community however even without Democratic and Republican Party lines on the ballot the level of squabbling can still be excessive. Dr. Ray Bodner, professor emeritus of political science at Rutgers, said in a 1993 NY Times article that nonpartisan elections were the byproduct of a political reform movement that appeared on the national scene in about 1900 as a response to rampant political corruption. Further, Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were among those who sought ways to make the electoral process more “open and honest”, terms we still hear frequently today.
A definite point of interest regarding nonpartisan towns is that Republican and Democratic county organizations may not contribute to those local races however individual political clubs can make such contributions. And in Union County’s own “nonpartisan” Hillside Township contribute they do based on filings with NJ Elec.
The 2007 elections in nonpartisan Hillside had no less than 14 residents filing to be on the ballot competing for council seats representing various wards. Three incumbents formed a Joint Candidate Committee shown as – CTE Brewer Stroud & Kulish with the treasurer being one Rosemary McClave. Though the Hillside Council has been under Democratic control for a number of years, one name on the slate of incumbents jumped out, John G. Kulish.
The following is taken directly from a 2006 newspaper article quoting Councilman John Kulish regarding the discord between Hillside’s mayor and the council: Kulish stressed that residents are not complaining about the mayor, but that the criticism is coming from people in town hall."A recall is normal when there's friction between the mayor and departments, or when a mayor is performing what she feels are her duties and rights and someone disagrees," said Kulish, the only member of the GOP on the council. "The only option is, don't vote her in or have a recall.""But they don't tell me anything," Kulish added. "I'm a Republican."Published in the Star-Ledger, Sunday, February 12, 2006, page 39.
Kulish and his running mates showed total receipts of $25,717.80 of both “In-Kind” and Monetary Contributions coming from the Hillside Democratic Campaign Committee and the 20th Legislative District Committee, both by the way show the same Virginia Street address. The address is also listed for the CTE Brewer Stroud & Kulish committee and unsurprisingly Rosemary McClave is also listed as the treasurer of the Hillside Democratic Committee.
Mr. Kulish has what appears to be a distinguished career in public service; the following is taken directly from the Hillside Township website:
3rd Ward Council
John G. Kulish
John has been a resident of Hillside for 53 years. John has been a former Hillside Township Mayor in addition in being a former municipal clerk. He has been a past president of both the Hillside Board of Education and the Hillside Board of Health. John has served Hillside as Commissioner of the Police, Fire, Recreation, and Finance Departments. Additionally he has been a commissioner of the Joint Meeting of Essex and Union Counties; he presently serves as a commissioner of the Union County Utilities Authority
However the following appointment from the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders has been omitted from that bio:
to serve on the Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic
Trust Fund Public Advisory Committee:
John Kulish, Elected Official
George Jorn, Elected Official (Democrat)
1/1/05 to 12/31/07.
And most recently:
2008-47 CHAIRMAN ESTRADA, appointing the following as members to the Open
Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund Public Advisory
January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2008: Environmental: James
Environmental: Joseph Spatola; Historic: Michael Yesenko; Labor: John
Business: Ralph Salermo; Education: Dr. Frank Deo; and January 1,
December 31, 2010: Elected Republican Official: John Kulish;
Official: Brenda Restivo; Public Member: Clarence
Cunningham; Public Member:
Oscar Ocasio; Public Member: Ruby Green; Public
Member: Pete Corvelli, Jr.
Click here for freeholder minutes
What a Sham!!!!
nonpartisan, nonpartizan (free from party affiliation or bias)
Mr. Kulish’s appointment by the Freeholders to the Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund Committee is outrageous, he is a NOT an Elected Republican Official, he is an elected official to a nonpartisan governing body, so it would appear that he does NOT fill the bill even if his voter registration is Republican.
Further, he was elected on a slate whose campaign has been totally funded by Union County Democrats to include state legislators and coincidently the Hillside Democratic Committee just so happens to have one vacancy and it is not at all a surprise that it is for a male committee member in his, Kulish’s, ward/district.
It would seem that Mr. Kulish being a Republican is an absolute joke.