Congressional candidate Brian Varela has been removed from the 8th Congressional District race after the Hudson County Democratic Organization successfully challenged his nomination petitions for the Democratic primary.
Varela, the CEO of a marketing firm in North Bergen, had initially entered the race in February after the incumbent, Rep. Albio Sires, a Democrat, announced his plans to retire after his current term ends.
Varela had initially submitted 589 signatures, which was more than the 200 required to qualify for the Democratic primary, but they were challenged by Hudson County Democratic chairwoman Amy DeGise, who argued that a number of them were invalid.
Hudson County View and the New Jersey Globe reported that after a 16-hour hearing, Assignment Judge Joann Candido ruled that Varela only had 181 valid signatures, with most of the invalid signatures made by persons from the wrong side of Kearny, which is split between the 8th and 9th Districts.
Varela acknowledged the error in the Kearny signatures on Twitter, and after the ruling had subsequently withdrawn from the race. “Thank you to all those who have been with us from the start and please rest assured that this is only the beginning,” he said on Twitter.
He had positioned himself as a progressive candidate in the race, touting positions such as universal healthcare and childcare, education reform and increasing entrepreneurship, and took aim at the Hudson County establishment.
The Hudson County Democrats themselves sought to challenge Varela’s signatures as they backed Robert Menendez Jr., the son of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, who’s running to succeed Sires for the open seat.
Eugene Mazo, an elections law professor from Newark that planned on running, also withdrew from the race after Hudson County Democrats challenged his petitions.
The Democratic primary is now between Menendez Jr., David Ocampo Grajales, a healthcare startup worker from Jersey City, and Ana Roseborough-Eberhard, a teacher from Weehawken The primary will take place on June 7.