Salem County Clerk Gilda Gill will not seek re-election to a fifth term and will retire at the end of the year.
“I will not be running again,” Gill told the New Jersey Globe on Thursday.
Gill, 81, is one of the Salem County’s most popular Republican vote-getters and her departure will set up a hotly contested race in a politically competitive county.
Control of the Salem County Board of Freeholders is also up this year.
Two Democrats have already begun campaigning for the job: former freeholder Beth Timberman and Ryan Padilla, an administrative clerk for the Cumberland County Department of Corrections.
Timberman spent twelve years as a freeholder before stepping down in 2015. Her late father, Ben Timberman, was a freeholder for 24 years.
The leading contenders for the Republican nomination to succeed Gill are former freeholders Julie Acton and Dale Cross.
Salem County Democratic Chairman Steve Caltabiano says that Gill’s retirement opens the door for a Democratic victory.
“She was a very formidable figure in Salem County politics,” Caltabiano said “Her retirement gives us an opportunity to elect a Democratic county clerk for the first time since 1999.”
Caltabiano says that potential candidates will have a chance to address local Democratic officials and Democratic club presidents in February. The Democratic line will be awarded at a convention in March, he said.
Two freeholders, Democrat Lee Ware and Republican Scott Griscom, are up this fall. Democrats will need to win both seats to flip the current 3-2 Republican majority.
Gill served as a municipal clerk before winning a freeholder seat in 1997. She was elected county clerk in 1999 and re-elected three times. In 2014, she defeated Democrat Ceil Smith, the former publisher of Today’s Sunbeam, a daily newspaper that is now part of the South Jersey Times, with 59% of the vote.