Party choices win lawsuit-riddled Washington Twp. race

Posted: June 05, 2014

The short but contentious primary season in Washington Township, Gloucester County's most populous, ended Tuesday night with victories for all six organization-backed candidates.

Divergent groups of the township's Republican Executive Committee and Democratic Executive Committee had sought their respective party's nomination. The seats of the council's three Republicans are up for grabs on the five-member board in November.

On the GOP side, embattled Council President Giancarlo D'Orazio lost in the primary alongside running-mate Robert Maloney. D'Orazio's eroding relationship with his party became public earlier this year, when the committee announced it would not endorse his reelection.

"This is the price that we pay to be a democracy," D'Orazio said Tuesday night. "Every decision I made was done on homework and common sense."

Although the party has said D'Orazio had gone against its ideals and made behind-the-scenes moves to empower himself, he maintains that he has refused to vote along party lines. The dispute has tainted the Republican majority.

Voting at the township's municipal building, Joanne Fernandez, 59, a Republican, called this election a "decisive one" for council. The middle-school special-education assistant said D'Orazio "keeps swaying with the Democrats" and had lost her vote.

Another party member, Tammy Rattacasa, 53 and a commercial real estate agent, said she respected D'Orazio's willingness to deviate from the party when necessary.

The committee's candidates - Christine Bailey, Joseph Micucci Jr., and Nicholas Fazzio - gained the nominations.

"The mood's great," Micucci said from township party headquarters. "We're glad we got this one thing behind us, and we finally put [out] a candidate who was not right for the people."

On the Democratic side, the committee's candidates - Angela Donato, Sean Longfellow, and Albert Frattali - beat out Fire Chief E. John Hoffman, Scott Dzierzgowski, and John Daly.

Frattali said the group "stayed positive" through the primary, despite several lawsuits born from the infighting in the two parties.

"People today don't want to hear all that stuff," he said. "People want to hear what you're doing to do for them."

In total, three lawsuits were filed. One, filed on behalf of Daly, alleged that the Democratic committee handpicked candidates in secrecy and sought for all candidates to be placed outside the regular "party line."

Eventually, the parties agreed to dismiss the suit. John Trimble, attorney and campaign manager for Daly and his running mates, said the candidates were not immediately available to comment, but noted: "It shows you how important the line is when it comes to these primaries and how the party bosses can control their handpicked candidates.

"We will live to fight another day," he said.

In another suit, the Republican committee candidates contested certain signatures on D'Orazio's and Maloney's petitions; it was deemed moot because the pair's filings had more than enough signatures even without those believed to be ineligible.

A sequel and pending lawsuit, filed by Gerald Keer, a Republican, will also be inconsequential in terms of the election: It challenges the township for rejecting an open-records request seeking video footage of D'Orazio filing his petitions. The party has questioned whether he had indeed filed three forms by deadline.


afichera@philly.com

856-779-3917

@AJFichera

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