Burlington County Republican Chairman Bill Layton is expected to step down within the next few weeks, ending an eleven-year run as head of one of New Jersey’s most effective county political organization.
The front-runner to replace him, according to sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity, is Lumberton mayor Sean Earlen.
Earlen, who is also the chairman of the New Jersey Pinelands Commission, is a close political ally of Layton.
Democrats won control of the Board of Freeholders on November 6 for the first time since 1975.
Other potential retirements are also on the horizon. There is strong speculation that six-term Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield and two-term Assemblyman Joseph Howarth (R-Marlton) will not seek re-election in 2019.
Howarth, 63, was re-elected to his 8th district Assembly seat in 2017 by just 645 votes. The district now has 6,694 more Democrats than Republicans.
The emergence of competitive elections in Burlington has been a long-time coming, and most pundits believe that the exceptional political skills of Bill Layton and his predecessor, Glenn Paulsen, have enabled he Republicans to last this long.
Burlington has become increasingly more Democratic over the last decade. Their edge in voter registration has expanded to 38.909; in 2007, when Layton first became county chairman, Burlington had 746 more Republicans than Democrats.
Republicans lost two freeholder seats in 2017 and two more this year, giving Democrats a 4-1 majority. Republican county clerk Tim Tyler also lost.
The retirement of State Sen. Diane Allen (R-Edgewater Park) last year gave Democrats their first state senator in twenty years. Democrat Troy Singleton (D-Palmyra) won the seat with 66% of the vote.
Burlington County now has a Democratic congressman for the first time since 1881. Rep.-elect Andy Kim (D-Marlton) ousted two-term Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-Toms River) and will likely face an aggressive challenge from Republicans in 2020.
Possible candidates to challenge Kim include State Sen. Dawn Addiego (R-Evesham), outgoing Burlington County freeholder Kate Gibbs, and former Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.