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Mercer County Freeholder Anthony Verrelli. (Photo by Nikita Biryukov)

Verrelli doesn’t have a head count

Not sure if he can reach 50% threshold in Gusciora special election

By Nikita Biryukov, July 18 2018 2:22 pm

Mercer County Freeholder Anthony Verrelli on Wednesday said he isn’t sure exactly how many of the 15th legislative district’s Democratic committee people have promised to vote him into Reed Gusciora’s State Assembly seat seat.

“I believe I have a lot of support out of those 278 seats. When I ran last time, I was a little short, and I planned and worked hard to build off of the commitments moving forward,” Verrelli said. “I don’t have the numbers. But I think my math is pretty good, I just got to keep working, moving forward.”

The special election is the second the district has seen this year. Verrelli’s candidacy for the seat once held by Elizabeth Muoio, who is now state treasurer, ended with a narrow 94-77 loss for the freeholder. Then-Trenton Councilwoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson took Muoio’s seat.

But another opportunity presented itself to Verrelli when Gusciora left the Assembly to become Trenton’s mayor.

Still, with six candidates, including former State Senate Executive Director Jeffrey Laurenti, seeking Gusciora’s seat, the field is wider than it was in February.

There are 278 county committee seats in the district, less any that are unfilled. If he wants to make it through without a runoff – a prospect that seems unlikely – Verrelli will need to secure 51% of those votes.

Verrelli demurred on whether or not he’d be able to reach that magic number, but with as many candidates as there are, that vote will likely get split amongst the candidates and force a runoff between the two top vote getters.

But, Verrelli does start the race with something of an advantage. He was joined at the official announcement of his candidacy on Wednesday by County Executive Brian Hughes and a staffer for Reynolds-Jackson.

Though Reynolds-Jackson did not attend the event personally, both she and Hughes are backing Verrelli.

If Verrelli ends up on top when the race is finally over, his victory would kick of another special election, this time to fill his freeholder seat.

“I haven’t really looked at that. I could imagine there are a lot of people looking to put their name forward if that was the case, but I really don’t know,” Verrelli said when asked about a possible succession race. “No one’s really stepped to me, ‘Hey, I want your seat.’ A lot of people have expressed interest around the municipalities, so I don’t know how that’s going to go.”

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