Mercer County Freeholder Anthony Verrelli was elected to fill the Assembly seat left vacant when Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora was sworn into his current post, winning in the runoff by five votes.
“I feel good,” Verrelli said shortly after his victory. “It’s a different result than the first time. there were a lot of qualified candidates that came before the committee tonight. It was a fair, transparent process like the last time, and at the end of the day, the people voted and they selected me.”
Earlier this year, Verrelli lost to Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson in a special election to fill Liz Muoio’s seat when she left the Assembly to become Gov. Phil Murphy’s treasurer.
Verrelli’s victory leaves a freeholder seat open, and Mercer County will undergo another special election to fill that seat.
But, the timing of such an election is unclear, as Verrelli will be sworn in during the next Assembly session. It’s possible Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin will wait until September schedule such a session.
Verrelli faced four other candidates in his quest for the seat. Foremost among them was Jeffrey Laurenti, once a candidate for the House of Representatives and a former executive director of New Jersey Senate Democrats.
Verrelli did not secure the 100 votes he would have needed to win in the first round of voting, forcing him to face off with Laurenti in the runoff.
Verrelli won that round as well, though the margin he did so by is unclear, as Mercer County Democratic Chairwoman Janice Mironov declined to provide a vote tally for either round of voting, though she did call the contest “spirited” and “competitive.”
198 of the district’s 248 county committee people attended the night’s contest, but it’s not clear if all those committee people stuck around for the second round of voting.
Also running for the seat were Hopewell Township Mayor Kevin Kuchinski and Ewing-based activist Fatima Mughal.
Ewing Board of Education Member Carl Benedetti dropped out of the race to endorse Verrelli, and another candidate, Ben Tew, dropped out for reasons related to his work.
Going into the race, Verrelli amassed a large number of endorsements, including those of Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes and Reynolds Jackson.