Burlington County Democrats will hold a special election convention on Saturday morning to pick a new freeholder.
George Youngkin resigned his seat immediately upon being sworn. Voters elected him even though he had suspended his campaign in September after news that he had been arrested on domestic violence charges in 2006 became public.
The leading candidates are Gina LaPlaca, a former top aide to Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts and now the governmental affairs director for Verizon New Jersey, and Delran councilman Daniel O’Connell, the former New Jersey legislative director of the United Transportation Union.
The race is thought to be close.
A faction of Burlington Democrats believe it would be politically smart for the party, which just assumed control of the freeholder board for the first time since 1975, to replace Youngkin with a woman. Still, O’Connell appears to have support from the Democratic establishment, including Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-Delran).
The top two vote-getters will compete in a runoff election if no candidate wins at least 50% of the vote on the first ballot, according to Burlington County Democratic Chairman Joseph Andl.
Former Mount Holly Mayor Jason Jones, an electrician with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 269, is also viewed as formidable.
Four other candidates are continuing through the selection process: Eli Eytan, an attorney who had run unsuccessfully for the State Assembly in the Ocean County-based 10th district in 2009 and 2011; Medford Environmental Commission chairman Kevin Sparkman; former Pemberton councilman Richard Prickett, who started as a Democrat, switched to the GOP, and is now a Democrat again; and Ryk Lewis, a director and choreographer from Medford Lakes
An eighth candidate, Tayshawn Fuller, an associate minister at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Burlington, was disqualified because of voter registration issues.
Sustainability activist Edward Cohen, the founding member of the Mount Laurel Green Team, dropped out of the race last week.