Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield will seek the Republican nomination for State Assembly in the 8th district, running on a ticket with incumbent Ryan Peters (R-Hainesport).
Stanfield will face Assemblyman Joe Howarth (R-Evesham) in the June primary.
This is a clear recruitment coup for Republicans leaders who moved to dump Howarth from the organization line amidst a belief that he considered switching parties after State Sen. Dawn Addiego (D-Evesham) became a Democrat in January.
Howarth has said he will run again with or without the organization line.
Stanfield, easily the most popular politician in Burlington County, announced last month that she was retiring after eighteen years as sheriff. She is stepping down on May 1 and will run full-time for the legislature.
Her unexpected candidacy for the legislature also throws a curveball to Democrats who were increasingly viewing the 8th as one of their strongest opportunities to pick up Assembly seats in a district that now leans Democratic.
Sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that Stanfield will formally enter the race tomorrow with the endorsement of least eleven of the fifteen Republican municipal chairs from the Burlington portion of the 8th district – many of whom signed a letter supporting Howarth last month.
The Burlington line will be awarded later this month at their county convention.
She is also expected to have the organization line in Camden County and will begin the race with key endorsements in Hammonton, the only Atlantic County town in the district.
Stanfield, 61, has been elected sheriff six times in countywide elections. She spent five years as undersheriff following a stint as an assistant Burlington County prosecutor.
In her 2016 re-election campaign, Stanfield won the 8th district portion of Burlington County by 14,271 votes (59%). Hillary Clinton won the same towns by 2,532 votes (51%) against Donald Trump.
This will be Stanfield’s second Assembly bid. She ran in 2003 when her hometown was in the 7th district and came within 1,459 votes of unseating three-term Assemblyman Jack Conners (D-Pennsauken). That was her only electoral defeat.
Burlington County GOP chairman Sean Earlen announced four weeks ago that the county Republican organization would not support Howarth for a third term.
“Following Senator Dawn Addiego’s announcement last week that she was abandoning her principles to become a Democrat, Assemblyman Joe Howarth cut off all contact with me and other Republican leaders in an apparent attempt to join Senator Addiego in defecting,” Earlen said in his statement said. “After finally speaking with Joe and weighing his words and his actions against contrary evidence, I consulted with other party leaders and arrived at the indisputable fact that Joe Howarth no longer deserves party support.”
Republicans almost lost the district in 2017, even though Democrats didn’t actively contest the seats.
Howarth was seeking re-election to a second term on a ticket with Peters, a Burlington County freeholder who entered the race after the primary after incumbent Maria Rodriguez-Gregg dropped out.
Democrats ran former Burlington County freeholder Joanne Schwartz and Mary Ann Merlino, a former mayor of Republican-leaning Waterford.
Howarth finished 645 votes ahead of Merlino and Peters won his seat by just 350 votes over Schwartz. Howarth ran 170 votes ahead of Peters.
In the race for State Senate, Addiego defeated George Youngkin by 2,637 votes, 52%-48%.
There may have been some coattails involved: Phil Murphy won the 8th with 52%, a 1,496 vote plurality.
The 8th has 6,610 more Democrats than Republicans.