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Warren County Democratic Freeholder candidate Theresa Bender Chapman. (Photo: Facebook.)

Democrats pick new candidate for Warren County freeholder

Theresa Bender Chapman will take on Lori Ciesla for open seat

By David Wildstein, August 25 2020 6:44 pm

Warren County Democrats have nominated Theresa Bender Chapman, a special education teacher and advocate for sustainability, as their candidate for freeholder.

She replaces Steven J. Hamburger, who withdrew from the race after winning the July 7 Democratic primary.

Chapman faces former Lopatcong Council President Lori Ciesla, who won the Republican nomination with 85% of the vote.

Republican Richard Gardner is retiring after eighteen years as a freeholder.

“As a working mother of two, I am very aware of the challenges that families face making ends meet,” Chapman said. “Fiscal responsibility, developing viable economic opportunities, delivering high quality services, and encouraging agricultural development are important aspects of maintaining and improving the quality of life in Warren County.”

Warren County Republicans have a near 2-1 edge over Democrats in voter registration, with more Republicans than unaffiliated voters.  Democrats have not had a freeholder since 2000, when now-State Sen. Michael Doherty unseated four-term freeholder Ann Stone.

Ciesla is a close ally of Doug Steinhardt, the Warren County GOP Chairman and the Republican State Chairman, and a former Lopatcong mayor.  She is heading a super PAC connected to Steinhardt, a possible candidate for the 2021 Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Win or lose, Chapman will be the last Democrat to ever run for Warren County freeholder.  Starting next year, the Board of Chosen Freeholders will be called county commissioners.

“Warren County is quickly becoming Warehouse County,” Chapman said. “We need to look for better, more sustainable solutions for our large commercial vacancies, such as the Phillipsburg Mall. There are many industries that would bring high quality jobs and increased economic revenues to Warren County that would enhance our communities.”

Chapman credited her father, Thomas Bender, a Vietnam veteran who served as chairman of the New Jersey Veteran Advisory Council, as her inspiration to seek public office.

“I learned my advocacy skills from my father, who was nationally recognized as POW/MIA Activist of the Year by the National Alliance of POW/MIA Families for his efforts,” she said.

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