One of most competitive freeholder primaries in New Jersey next week is in Cumberland County, where incumbent Jack Surrency is running off-the-line after the county Democratic organization declined to support him for re-election.
The winners of the primary could face an aggressive bid by Republicans to take control of the Board of Freeholders in the fall.
Surrency has formed a ticket with Donna Pearson, who served two terms on the Board of Freeholders in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The third candidate is Tracey Huggins, a registered nurse who ran for the Vineland school board seat three years ago.
The three are bracketed with congressional candidate Amy Kennedy.
The slate, occupying Column F, is hard to find on the ballot
Incumbents Carol Musso and George Castellini and their running mate, Millville commissioner Bruce Cooper, are in Column A with Joe Biden, Cory Booker and Brigid Callahan Harrison.
Four columns separate the two slates: Bernie Sanders and Lawrence Hamm, ho is challenging Booker, is in Column B, followed Democratic congressional candidates Will Cunningham in D, Robert Turkavage in D, and John Francis in E.
Surrency alleges that he was dumped from the Democratic organization ticket for showing independence from party leaders.
In June, the freeholders voted to censor after he attacked the board for appropriating $386,000 for sanitization of the county’s jail over past months.
The organization candidates have a strong financial edge.
The Progressive Democrats for Cumberland County slate has reported raising $24,123 and spent $22,473, according to their 11-Day pre-election report filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. They have cash-on-hand of $1,648.
The ticket reported a $4,752 in-kind contribution from New Jersey Working Families for direct mail, and $6,000 from Logan Mayor Frank Minor, a staunch critic of the South Jersey Democratic machine.
Musso has raised $48,632 for her re-election and has $14,195 remaining in her warchest. Castellini has $12,139 in the bank and has raised $21,284 so far. Cooper brought in $30,900 since becoming a candidate for county office and has $3,514 still in his account.
Sheriff Robert Austino is unopposed for renomination after his opponent, Dennis D’Augostine, failed to file enough signatures to qualify for the Democratic primary.
Democrats have a 6-1 majority and Republicans would need to take all three seats to take over control of the freeholder board.
Republicans think President Donald Trump, who lost Cumberland by 3,318 votes in 2016, can win the county this time – or at least narrow the margin. They believe the presence of party-switching Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis) on the ticket gives them an advantage.
It’s not clear if Trump will run better or worse than he did four years ago. Biden spent 36 years in the U.S. Senate representing Delaware, which from a New Jerseyan’s view of the world is just a suburb of Cumberland County.
Van Drew represented a large chunk of Cumberland County in the legislature for seventeen years and carried the county by 20 percentage points in 218.
The GOP is running Victoria Lods, Darwin Cooper, Jr. and Antonio Romeo for freeholder, and retired prosecutor’s office lieutenant Michael Donato for sheriff.
Lods, a former aide to State Sen. Nicholas Asselta (R-Vineland) until Van Drew unseated him in 2007, is making her third bid for public office in four cycles.
She ran for freeholder in 2018 and finished 2,246 votes behind Surrency. Last year, she came within 1,422 votes of ousting County Clerk Celeste Riley.
Cooper, a conservative activist who worked on Seth Grossman’s campaign against Van Drew two years ago, ran as an independent candidate for freeholder in 2016. Romero just narrowly lost races for Vineland City Council in 2012 and 2016 on a slate with mayoral candidate Robert Romano.
Republicans had a surge in 2019 when Michael Testa, Jr. (R-Vineland), the Cumberland County GOP chairman, won a seat in the State Senate, along with two GOP assemblymen.
Last year, Republican Douglas Albrecht won the open freeholder seat of Joseph Sparacio, also a Republican who did not seek re-election. Democratic incumbent Darlene Barber won the other seat by a margin of just 446 votes over Republican Jeffrey Bordley.
In 2018, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Hugin came with 142 votes of carrying Cumberland in his race against incumbent Bob Menendez.
Cumberland just narrowly went Democratic in 2016, with Barber winning re-election by just 591 votes. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-Ventnor) won Cumberland by 7,355 votes (56%-40%) and Hillary Clinton outpolled Trump by 3,318 votes, (51%-45%).
Musso was the mayor of Deerfield before her election to the Board of Freeholders in 2011, and was the top vote-getter in 2017, leading Republican Carman Daddario by 3,050 votes.
Castellini, the son of a former Cumberland County sheriff, was elected in 2017. He finished second in a field of seven candidates, 417 votes behind Musso.Cumberland County Democratic Sample Ballot 2020 Vineland