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Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Assembly panel will consider bill to ban sheriffs, county clerks from being county chairs

Only current county chairman affected is Shaun Golden

By David Wildstein, May 08 2023 5:00 pm

A bill that would prohibit Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden from serving as the Republican county chairman is expected to be considered by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on May 18.

Legislation introduced by Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-Jersey City) would block county constitutional officers – county clerks, surrogates, and sheriffs – from holding an elected position in a county political organization.

The bill seeks to obviate the appearance of a conflict with county election officials running a political party, and sheriffs who provide security for politically-independent judges.

“It’s good public policy,” said Mukherji.

The only incumbent that would affect is Golden.

Surrogates are the only elected judges in New Jersey, and court rules would prohibit holders of that office from serving as county chair.

If the bill became law, Golden would need to choose between his two posts – or challenge the law in court.

The idea of banning sheriffs and county clerks from serving as county chairs has been around for a while.  Steve Sweeney threatened to pass a similar bill when one of his rivals, Passaic County Democratic Chairman John Currie, considered running for county clerk.

While the proposed law would only affect Golden for now, plenty of other constitutional officers have simultaneously served as county chairmen: County Clerk Jim Beach in Camden, Sheriff Joseph Spicuzzo in Middlesex, County Clerk Frank Rodgers in Hudson, and Sheriff Frank Davenport in Passaic.   It could have affected Ocean County Sheriff Michael Mastronardy, who ran for GOP county chairman last year.

Mukherji’s bill does not bar constitutional officers from serving as state committee members.  That would exempt Essex County Clerk Christopher Durkin, Hunterdon County Clerk Mary Melfi, and Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi from serving.

The proposal also doesn’t ban county executives, or in Essex and Hudson, registers of deeds and mortgages.   The late Phil Thigpen was the Essex County Register while serving as county chairman; two county executives, Thomas D’Alessio of Essex and Robert Janiszewski of Hudson, were county chairmen before going to prison.

Editor’s note: the Assembly Judiciary Committee has pushed their May 11 meeting to May 18. 

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