Home>Campaigns>GOP defend county commissioner majority in Salem, the smallest county in N.J.

Salem County Commissioners Ben Laury, left, and Mickey Ostrum, center, and Sheriff Chuck Miller. (Photo: Salem County Republican's).

GOP defend county commissioner majority in Salem, the smallest county in N.J.

Laury and Ostrum face Democrats Carney and Bobbitt

By David Wildstein, November 01 2021 12:39 am

Salem County is about the size of Old Bridge, but it has a vibrant two-party system where voters don’t hesitate to split their tickets.  It’s also a county that doesn’t have organization lines on primary ballots – and in general elections, candidates are not placed on lines or in columns.

Republican County Commissioners Ben Laury and Mickey Ostrum face Democrats Nelson Carney, Jr., the president of the Woodstown-Pilesgrove Regional Board of Education and the Salem County NAACP, and political newcomer Catherine Bobbitt.

This is a control election.  Republicans have a 4-1 majority on the Salem County, but Democrats need to beat both incumbents to control county government.

By a 3-1 margin, voters approved a 2016 referendum that reduced the size of the then-Board of Freeholders from seven to five.

Republicans had a 3-2 majority after the 2017 election but lost it when Freeholder Melissa DeCastro switched parties.

Ostrum challenged DeCastro in 2018 and beat her by 1,151 votes.  Laury ran 3,005 votes ahead of Jesse Sternberger, the son of the former mayor of Elmer.    That restored the 3-2 majority.

Voters last split their ticket in 2019 when two incumbents, Republican Scott Griscom and Democrat Lee Ware won re-election.   Edward Ramsey, who lost to Ware by 762 votes, unseated Democratic incumbent Charles Hassler by 661 votes in 2020.

Republican Chuck Miller is unopposed in his bid for a sixth term.

Donald Trump carried Salem County by 4,348 votes in the 2020 presidential election, while Gov. Phil Murphy lost the county by 794 votes in 2017.

In the same 2017 election, Senate President Steve Sweeney carried Salem County in his own re-election campaign by 1,494 votes against Fran Grenier, the Salem County GOP Chairman.

Ostrum has practiced obstetrics and gynecology in New Jersey and Delaware since 1980.  He is the deputy chair of OB/GYN at Christiana Hospital in Wilmington.

Laury, a former Elmer school board member, is completing his fourth term as a county commissioner.  He was the top vote-getter in 2014, finishing 853 votes ahead of DeCastro, his then-running mate, and 953 votes ahead of Democrat Charles Hassler.  Hassler unseated Republican Robert Vanderslice in 201 by 1,106 votes.

Miller was elected Sheriff fifteen years ago with 52% of the vote against Democrat Bill Higgins, a retired state police captain after GOP incumbent John Cooksey declined to seek a fifth term.  Miller didn’t have an opponent in 2009, 2012 and 2015 and defeated Democrat Bob Gant, the Salem County Fraternal Order of Police president, with 54% in 2018.

Carney and his wife are on the ballot this year.  Stacy Shorter-Carney is seeking re-election to the Woodstown Borough Council.

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