SPARTA — For those hoping to win one of two available seats on Sparta’s Township Council in this fall’s municipal election, Sept. 4 was the deadline to submit petitions to Township Clerk, Mary Coe. As of 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Coe said a total of five petitions had been received.
Three petitions were submitted earlier this summer and Coe has verified that all three contain at least 150 valid signatures of registered Sparta voters. Those candidates are Jerry Murphy, Donald Ploetner, and Chris Quinn.
Two more petitions were turned in on Tuesday, just before the deadline, and Coe is still in the process of verifying those signatures. Those candidates are Jim Henderson and Jesse Wolosky.
Current Mayor Jerry Murphy is seeking his third term on the council and he is the only incumbent running. Murphy served three years of an unexpired term when he was elected in a 2005 special election, which was held to fill the seat of former councilman Doug Martin, who moved away after serving only the first year of his term. Murphy then ran for a full term in 2008, and was elected in a run-off election along with Councilman Scott Seelagy, whose term also expires in 2012. Seelagy has served for four terms and is not seeking reelection this fall.
Jim Henderson is not a current incumbent but he has served two previous terms on Sparta’s council, from 1998 to 2006. He ran for a third term in 2006 and lost.
Both Jesse Wolosky and Donald Ploetner are launching their second bids for council seats. The two were in a field of six on the 2010 municipal ballot, vying for three available seats that year. They were unsuccessful, losing to John Schon, Gilbert Gibbs, and Molly Whilesmith, who won in a run-off election.
Ploetner also made an unsuccessful bid for a seat on the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders this past June. Although both Wolosky and Ploetner have thrown their hats into the ring for previous elections, neither has yet held public office.
The only candidate who is a newcomer to Sparta elections is Chris Quinn, who is making her first bid for a council seat.
A new era for Sparta elections
This fall, Sparta will embark on an election season unlike any it has seen in over 100 years. For the first time since 1903, both municipal elections and board of education elections will be held simultaneously on the same ballot as the November general election. Under a new law adopted in Jan. 2010, New Jersey’s 86 towns with Faulkner Act forms of government, of which Sparta is one, were given the option to move their May elections to November by passing a resolution. Sparta’s last municipal election was in May of 2010, and subsequently the council joined the majority of Faulkner Act municipalities by voting to change their election date to November. Another change in this year’s municipal vote is the elimination of the run-off election, which factored heavily in deciding the two previous council elections. In a special question which was included on the November 2011 ballot, Sparta voters opted to do away the run-off, which was held if no candidate received 50 percent plus one vote. Now the top vote-getters will win seats on the council, even if none receives a majority of the vote. A new law that went into effect in January 2012 gave school boards the option to move their school elections to November as well. A whopping 90 percent of New Jersey’s 468 school districts opted for this change, which will add board of education candidates to the ballot with not only municipal candidates, but also with those running for county, state, and federal offices, and for president. Both school districts and municipalities hope that by combining these elections and allowing voters to cast ballots for candidates in multiple races in one fell swoop, voter turnout will increase and election costs will go down. Stay tuned for more election news in the coming weeks as the Sparta Independent will be providing readers with more information on the council candidates and also on the seven candidates running for board of education seats, which include Kim Yeomans, James Todd Muth, Ilse Wolfe, John Surdoval, Karen Scott, Keith Smith, and Dorothy LaBeau.