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Somerset County Freeholder Brian Gallagher. (Photo: Somerset County.)

Gallagher not expected to seek Bateman Senate seat

Former freeholder could return to local politics in Somerville, where he was mayor from 2004 to 2017

By David Wildstein, January 28 2021 10:16 am

Former Somerset County Freeholder Brian Gallagher is highly unlikely to seek the State Senate seat in the 16th legislative district and is considering a return to municipal government in his hometown of Somerville, the New Jersey Globe has learned.

Republican leaders had touted Gallagher as a top choice to succeed State Sen. Christopher Bateman (R-Branchburg), who announced on Wednesday that he would not seek re-election to a seventh term in the New Jersey Senate.

This leaves Republicans scrambling to find a Senate candidate to run in a district that has leaned blue in recent years.

Joe Biden carried the 16th district by 28,165 votes, 61%-38%.

Close allies of Gallagher confirmed that his interest lies more in local government than in Trenton.

That could set up a 2023 run for mayor, possibly against Democratic incumbent Dennis Sullivan, who won the post in a 2018 special election to fill the unexpired term of Gallagher.  He had resigned to take his seat on the freeholder board.

In 2011, Gallagher defeated Sullivan by a landslide 60%-40% margin.

Gallagher lost his bid for re-election in the 2020 countywide election.

Gallagher as mayor of Somerville from 2004 to 2017 and as a Somerville councilman from 2001 to 2003.  He was elected freeholder in 2017 and leaves office on January 1.

In November 2020, Gallagher ran 3,803 votes ahead of Trump in the 16th district and 1,542 votes ahead of Republican congressional candidate Tom Kean, Jr.

Biden won the Somerset portion of the district by a17 points, and Rep. Tom Malinowski took it by ten points.  Gallagher trailed North Plainfield Councilman Doug Singleterry in the 16th district municipalities by a 51%-49% margin.

But in heavily Democratic Somerville, Gallagher finished third, 319 votes behind Democrat Paul Drake.

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