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

Gallagher won’t rule out Assembly bid in 16th district

Outgoing freeholder and ex-Somerville mayor is possible top GOP recruit

By David Wildstein, December 04 2020 8:33 pm

Outgoing Somerset County Freeholder Brian Gallagher has not ruled out a bid for State Assembly in the 16th district next year, giving Republicans some hope of recruiting one of the strongest potential candidates.

Gallagher lost his freeholder seat last month, but he ran seven percentage points ahead of President Donald Trump in the municipalities in the 16th and just narrowly lost the legislative district to his Democratic rivals.

“I’m flattered, but I haven’t given it much thought,” Gallagher said of an Assembly bid.  “After the first, I’ll give it some consideration.”

Republicans are seeking two candidates to run with State Sen. Christopher Bateman (R-Branchburg) in one of the state’s most competitive legislative districts.

The GOP lost one of the 16th district Assembly seats in 2015, when Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick) ousted Assemblywoman Donna Simon (R-Readington) by just 78 votes.

Two years later, when Republican Jack Ciattarelli (R-Hillsborough) left the legislature to run for governor, Democrat Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough) captured the open Assembly seat.

Zwicker has told party leaders that he will challenge Bateman for the Senate in 2021, and Freiman is also mulling a Senate bid.

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.

Joe Biden won the Somerset portion of the district by a 17 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.

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

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