Eatontown, NJ – Nashawn Vazquez, an independent candidate for State Assembly in the 11th district, has been disqualified from the ballot after a judge ruled that he did not obtain enough valid petition signatures to qualify. The 21-year-old Eatontown resident made the decision to withdraw his candidacy following the ruling by Administrative Law Judge Edward Delanoy, who found that three of the 52 signatures on Vazquez’s nominating petitions came from unregistered voters.
Both the New Jersey Republican State Committee, represented by attorney Jason Sena, and Democratic attorney Bill Northgrave had raised concerns about the validity of Vazquez’s petitions.
As a result of Vazquez’s withdrawal, the ballot for the 11th district now includes four candidates: Assemblywomen Marilyn Piperno (R-Colts Neck) and Kim Eulner (R-Shrewsbury), along with their Democratic challengers, Ocean Township Councilwoman Margie Donlon and former Municipal Court Judge Luanne Peterpaul.
Although Vazquez is no longer officially on the ballot, he has indicated that he intends to continue his campaign as a write-in candidate.
“While I won’t be listed on the ballot, I will still actively campaign,” Vazquez stated.
While it is rare for independent candidates to win legislative seats in New Jersey, they can sometimes play a role as spoilers in elections. In the 2021 Assembly race in the 11th district, Green Party candidate Dominique Faison received 1,152 votes, potentially affecting the outcome of the race.
Another notable candidate in the 11th district is Karen Zaletel, a conservative and GOP county committeewoman from Eatontown. She has run for office multiple times since 1996, representing both the Republican Party and running as an independent. Zaletel has filed as the NJ Patriot Party candidate for State Senate and will be challenging State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch) and Republican Steve Dnistrian.
This election is the first to be held under the new legislative map, and several candidates have taken advantage of a 1948 law that requires just 50 signatures on petitions to secure a spot on the ballot as an independent candidate.