CAPE MAY — A group trying to recall Mayor Ed Mahaney from office has less than three weeks to turn the petition in and still does not have enough signatures from registered voters.

The group, which announced the initiative in April, needs 481 signatures certified by the city clerk to get the recall question on the November ballot. Organizer Charles Hendricks said he won’t even turn it in without 500 signatures.

“We’re more than halfway there and moving towards three-quarters. We have 20 days to go,” Hendricks said.

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Getting the signatures has not been easy, said Hendricks, who was heading out to knock on doors Wednesday afternoon, especially after a group led by local businessman Curtis Bashaw came out against the effort.

“Some people literally slam the door in your face. It’s been very time-consuming and tough emotionally. I’ve lost some friends over this,” Hendricks said.

The group hopes to benefit from recent revelations that some city employees received subpoenas related to an investigation on the police compensatory time case that led to the demotion of Robert Sheehan as police chief. The group opposed that demotion and listed it as one of several reasons to recall Mahaney from office. Mahaney voted for the demotion.

Hendricks also noted the local publication Exit Zero recently came out in support of the recall.

“There are people coming out of the woodwork now,” he said.

Will it be enough? Bashaw hopes it isn’t. His group, which includes a large coalition of business interests, is not necessarily Mahaney supporters, but they argue a recall is counterproductive, especially with the mayor’s seat up for election in November 2016 anyway.

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“There will be another election in a year, and voters will make a choice at that time. I’m hopeful they don’t get the signatures and we can move on and get some of the issues resolved,” Bashaw said.

Some won’t sign because the recall movement is not naming any potential replacement candidates. A recall asks voters whether an elected official should be removed from office, but then voters also have to pick a replacement. Mahaney could even run for the seat.

“The few people I know open to a recall say, ‘What’s the alternative?’ and I really haven’t heard any,” Bashaw said.

Hendricks is not revealing whether Mahaney opponents have anybody in mind.

“People want to know who is a candidate. We don’t want to come forward until a recall is in place,” Hendricks said.

Any potential candidates better be ready. Here’s why: The recall petition is due Aug. 18 to get on the Nov. 3 ballot. The city clerk has to check the signatures and either certify or reject it by the end of business Aug. 28. The filing deadline to run in the recall election is Aug. 31. That means a candidate has to get a petition and secure the 25 necessary signatures in just a few days.

Cape May County Clerk Rita Marie Fulginiti said Aug. 31 is the last day to file for a general election unless an order from a judge extends it to Sept. 10.

The recall movement could have had more time if it sought a special election 60 days after the general. Hendricks said they decided not to pursue this option because it would have cost local taxpayers to host a special election. City Clerk Louise Cummiskey said it would cost $15,211.

That would have made selling a recall, already a tough sale, even tougher. Hendricks said some are worried about retaliation if they sign, but he said unless he gets the full number of signatures and submits the petition, it would not be public information. The names of those who signed will remain confidential.

Bashaw is concerned the best candidates will not run based on the vitriol taking over political discourse in the city. He said there has been a rush to judgment before all the facts are out and there needs to be a greater level of civility.

Hendricks does not necessarily disagree.

“The whole thing is not good for anybody. The recall has divided the city,” he said.

The city’s last recall election was in 1990, when Robert Elwell and Jerry Gaffney were selected to replace Councilmen Joe Tracy and Angelo Infanto.

Contact: 609-463-6711

35 years with The Press of Atlantic City, the Asbury Park Press and other newspapers.

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