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Montgomery Township Committeewoman Patricia Taylor Todd. (Photo: Patricia Taylor Todd).

Somerset Dems still looking to keep Assembly seat after withdrawal of their only contender

Patricia Taylor Todd will try to hold the Montgomery Township Committee seat she was appointed to in November instead

By David Wildstein, February 08 2023 11:59 pm

Patricia Taylor Todd dropped out of a race she had not yet entered on Wednesday, saying she would no longer pursue the Democratic nomination for an open State Assembly seat in the 16th legislative district.

The move comes as Mitchelle Drulis, a veteran Democratic staffer who served as Rep. Tom Malinowski’s district director for four years, has emerged as the clear favorite to replace Assemblywoman Sadaf Jaffer (D-Montgomery), who unexpectedly announced last month that she would not seek re-election to a second term.

Todd, appointed to the Montgomery Township Committee late last year, was a no-show at the Hunterdon County Democratic convention on Tuesday evening.  Drulis won the organization line there by acclamation and appears to have locked in the votes to claim lines in Middlesex and Mercer.

Still, Somerset County Democratic Chair Peg Schaffer is trying to keep the Assembly seat for her county, issuing a statement saying the party “continues to search for its preferred nominee ahead of the county’s nominating convention” on March 15.

“While Committeewoman Todd would have made a great candidate in LD-16 this year, the other potential candidates we met are also well-qualified, talented people who are more than capable of winning this assembly seat,” Schaffer said.

Some Democratic insiders think that Drulis can win the Somerset convention, even without Schaffer’s endorsement.

Drulis has the endorsement of Malinowski, who remains hugely popular with Democratic insiders in Somerset County.  As Malinowski’s top New Jersey aide, Drulis worked closely with local officeholders and party leaders and helped close more than 11,500 constituent service cases between 2019 and the first few days of this year.

Suppose Drulis wins conventions in Mercer and Middlesex. In that case, Somerset goes last this year – and Schaffer picks another candidate to run on her organization line, she risks State Sen. Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick) and Assemblyman Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough) declining the line and running with Drulis.

While there is no sign of a full-scale battle, fights over some seats could have repercussions.  For example, if Zwicker, Freiman, and Drulis were to run together off the line in Somerset, and if they were to recruit their own slate of county commissioner candidates, that could put two scarcely-known incumbents, Douglas Singleterry, and Paul Drake, in danger of losing a primary.

Todd said she would instead run for the township committee.

“It was an honor to be considered for the Democratic nomination in LD-16,” Todd stated.  “I look forward to supporting the eventual nominee in my capacity as a candidate for local office in the 16th District, and I will work hard to support Democratic victories up and down the ballot.”

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