The Middlesex Borough Council president is the apparent write-in winner of the Republican state Senate nomination in the 22nd District, which includes Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Plainfield, Clark, Linden and Rahway.
Unofficial tallies available from the county clerks in Union and Somerset Counties showed Michael Class receiving 184 write-in votes versus 55 for Plainfield pastor Shannon Wright. The Middlesex County Clerk’s office did not have numbers readily available in the Senate race. Class said his own tally showed him defeating Wright by a vote of 277-65. The Republican nominee will face Sen. Nick Scutari (D-Linden) in the November election.
Class’ nomination still needs to be certified by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno in her capacity as secretary of state.
The unusual write-in campaign came after Wright was in April and then was knocked off the ballot due to petition irregularities. When Wright first filed her petition with the secretary of state’s office, she was told she had filed a petition to seek an Assembly seat and not the Senate seat. Gathering new signatures hours before the filing deadline on a Senate petition, Wright had the petition dismissed for not having 100 valid signatures. Without a candidate on the ballot, a write-in candidate would need 100 votes minimum to qualify for the ballot.
Class said after the ballot slot was left open, he decided to make the race, which he said he thought about in the past and garnered party support in Union, Somerset and Middlesex Counties. Wright did run a write-in race for the seat, with Class’ effort becoming known just before Tuesday’s vote.
“It is important that District 22 has a Republican candidate,” Class said.
Wright issued a statement late Thursday morning where she did not concede defeat, acknowledging that Guadagno has not certified the results of the election. She did say she was pleased to have won the Republican Party's backing during the convention process.
"I can tell you this, win lose or draw I am very proud to have won the nomination for the District 22 Senate," Wright said. "I want to thank all of the people who worked so hard to bring fiscal responsibility to New Jersey. It has been my honor and privilege to work with all of you."
Wright did use the statement to outline her view for the Republican Party.
"Regardless of my position on the ballot it is my sincere hope all of you will join me in encouraging Union County GOP Chairman Phil Morin to work with us insure we build the Union County GOP into the diverse and inclusive powerhouse organization it should be," she said in her statement, which was emailed to supporters and media. "This election cycle is far from over. There is a lot of work to do. Our issues and concerns are waiting to be addressed. We need smaller government, lower taxes, education choice, healthcare reform, pension reform, and so much more."
Class said he is running for the Senate because of what he sees as Scutari’s decision to not address economic issues in the state.
“He seems to be concentrating on bills like legalizing marijuana for terminally ill people and gutting teacher’s pension for future hires,” Class said. “It does not address what is going on right now in our community. We need to focus on solutions that have an effect now. When our community people are losing jobs, all hands on deck should be focused on that.”
With the district leaning Democratic since it’s inception a decade ago, Class said he believe he can defeat the powerful Scutari. Scutari currently chairs the Senate judiciary committee, which considers all constitutional amendments and gubernatorial appointments. Scutari has been locked in a battle with Gov. Chris Christie over the governor’s appointments to various governmental bodies and judgeships.
“I think a Republican definitely has a shot at winning,” Class said. “As long as our current senator concentrates on things that are not the priority of the people, I have a shot at winning.”
Scutari was first elected to the seat in 2003 defeating then Scotch Plains Mayor Marty Marks and was reelected in 2007 over former Somerset County Freeholder Rose McConnell of North Plainfield. Scutari, the Linden city prosecutor and a former Union County freeholder chairman, replaced Sen. Joe Suliga (D-Linden) on the 2003 ballot, after Suliga was embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal.
Scutari did not return a message left for comment at his office.
Class, the president of Robinson Elevator in Middlesex Borough, was first elected to the Borough Council in 2008 and is giving up his reelection bid to seek the Senate seat. He stressed that due his company being union affiliated, he is a union friendly candidate.
Class said he is still getting up to speed on state government issues, including Christie’s proposed toolkit for municipal governments to address management issues and the property tax cap. He noted that he is in favor of lowering property taxes and that the state government needs to adjust on how it addresses economic issues.
Class said he plans a tour of the district’s towns in the coming weeks.
“I am pretty excited that this is happening,” he said. “I am going to hit the ground running.”