Tim Pino says he has now raised more than $68,000 in his bid for the Republican nomination for Somerset County Sheriff.
The retired sheriff’s office K9 unit commander is seeking to replace Frank Provenzano, who is retiring after eighteen years as sheriff.
He faces North Plainfield police chief Bill Parenti, who has been endorsed by Provenzano. The two will compete for the organization line at a party convention next month, and possibly in the June GOP primary.
Pino looks to be running a different kind of campaign. He has promised to appoint the county’s first Muslim and Black undersheriffs.
Democrats appear to have settled on Darrin Russo, a former Franklin Township police lieutenant who won 49.6% against Provenzano in 2016. Art Akins, a school resources officer in Bridgewater and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, is also in the race.
Pino has won endorsements from former Somerset County Freeholder Patrick Scaglione and State Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Oxford), who represents part of Somerset County. He also has the backing of Hunterdon County sheriff Fred Brown, State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Little Silver), and Nelson Albano, a former Democratic assemblyman from Vineland.
Republican County Chairman Al Gaburo has not formally endorsed a candidate to replace Provenzano.
Once a Republican stronghold, Somerset has become a swing county in recent years.
The county has 15,798 more Democrats than Republicans. A decade ago, Republicans had an edge of 879.
Somerset has gone Democratic in the last three presidential elections, with Hillary Clinton winning by 20,184 votes in 2016. Murphy and U.S. Senator Bob Menendez won Somerset in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
In 2017, Somerville Councilman Steven Peter unseated veteran Republican County Clerk Brett Radi by 407 votes; the Democratic Freeholder candidates lost by 1,489 votes.
Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Rocky Hill) became the first congressman from Somerset County since Michael Pappas lost re-election in 1998. He ousted five-term Rep. Leonard Lance in the November 2018 mid-term, carrying the Somerset portion of his district by 8,758 votes (53%-45%).
In total, Somerset County voters cast 60% of their ballots in 2018 for Democratic congressional candidates. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing) won her part of Somerset with 70% of the vote.
Two Democratic Assemblymen live in Somerset: Joe Danielson (D-Franklin) and Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough). A third, Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick), lives in Middlesex County, but his district is mostly in Somerset County.
Democrats are beginning to build a bench in Somerset, where they’ve made significant gains on the local level.
For the first time, women hold a majority of seats on the Somerset freeholder board. Sara Sooy is the county’s first Hispanic freeholder and Shanel Robinson is the first Black to serve on the board.
The last time Somerset County elected a Democratic Sheriff was in 1964, when Rocky Hill police chief George Gurisic ousted six-term GOP incumbent Ernest Hunnewell in the Lyndon Johnson-led Democratic landslide that year.
Republican Paul Zanowic, the North Plainfield police chief, defeated Gurisic in 1967.