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Jackson Mayor Michael Reina. (Photo: Jackson Township).

Reina backs out of 12th district race after brief campaign

Race to succeed Dancer is still taking shape

By Joey Fox, August 02 2022 2:15 pm

Jackson Mayor Michael Reina, briefly a leading candidate for the 12th district Assembly seat left open by the late Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-Plumsted), announced today that he is dropping out of the race.

“I’ve made no mistake that one day I would like to represent the people of the 12th Legislative District as their assemblyman but after much consideration and in consultation with trusted advisors, I have decided today is not that day,” Reina said in a statement.

While Reina did not specify what caused him to nix his short-lived campaign, he said that there is still work he wants to do in Jackson, where he has been mayor since 2008 and where he is up for re-election this year.

“As our population continues to grow and become more diverse and as businesses continue to invest in our community, there is simply too much at stake to trust the work to unsteady and untested leadership,” he said. “There remains much to be done and I intend to see the job through to its completion.”

That leaves Jackson Council Vice President Alex Sauickie III, former Jackson Councilman Scott Martin, Englishtown Councilman Daniel Francisco, Plumsted Township Committeeman Dominick Cuozzo, and former Toms River Councilman Brian Kubiel (who now lives in Plumsted) as the race’s declared or potential candidates.

Dancer, who had served in the legislature since 2002, died on July 23 after a long illness. The Republican special convention to replace him will take place on August 11, and the winner will take office without needing to face voters; there will also be a November special election in the solidly Republican district.

The district is primarily divided among Ocean, Monmouth, and Middlesex Counties, also including a small portion of Burlington County. Since Dancer was the district’s lone Ocean County representative, the other two major counties have seemingly agreed to let an Ocean candidate take his place.

But Ocean Republicans, and Jackson Republicans in particular, have a history of fractious politics and may not unite behind one candidate. Jackson has at least three different political factions that may each be competing for the seat; it’s not immediately clear whether local considerations were a factor in Reina’s exit.

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