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The Democratic candidates for Cape May County Freeholder have been endorsed by AFSCME New Jersey Council 63, which represents over 1,000 county employees.
The backing of Elizabeth Casey and Joyce Gould comes at a time when Democrats view an opportunity to win their first countywide election since Jeff Van Drew left the freeholder board to become an assemblyman.
“Cape May County workers deserve independent voices on the freeholder board,” said Steven Tully, the AFSCME New Jersey Council 63 Executive Director, and Associate Director Debbie Parks.
The labor leaders said that Casey and Gould are committed to “treating AFSCME members with the respect and dignity they deserve” and “creating a better work environment for county workers by compensating and promoting county employees based on merit, not favoritism.”
Casey and Gould would prohibit nepotism and conflicts of interest among county officials “by ending political jobs and using a fair hiring process.”
Republican incumbents Gerald Thornton and Marie Hayes have faced a series of issues that could spell trouble in next month’s election, where control of county government is not at stake.
The all-Republican freeholder board voted to censure Hayes last month related to a retaliation claim made by Board clerk Beth Bozzelli The details of the issue have not been made public.
Hayes attacked Thornton, her running mate, alleging that he lobbied her to vote in favor of a raise for his step-son, county counsel Jeff Lindsay.
Gould joined the ticket in August to replace Steve Barry, who dropped out of the race for health reasons. Casey is an Ocean City attorney and former Assistant Counsel to the New Jersey Casino Control Commission.
Van Drew, then the Mayor of Dennis, won a seat on the Cape May County Board of Freeholders in 1994, defeating Republican incumbent Gary Jessel by 2,648 votes, a 54%-46% margin. He gave up his seat in 1997 to run for Assembly but lost to incumbent Nicholas Asselta (R-Vineland) by 1,811 votes after holding Asselta to an 824-vote win in the Cape May portion of the district.
In 2000, Van Drew reclaimed his freeholder seat when he ousted his successor, incumbent Mark Videtto, by 11,513 votes, a 63%-37% margin.
After Democrats began to sense the tide trending their way during the summer of 2001, they pulled Robert Balicki from the 1st district Assembly race and replaced him with Van Drew.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bret Schundler carried Cape May by just 353 votes that year against James McGreevey, 17,471 to 18,118. Van Drew unseated Republican Assemblyman John Gibson (R-Sea Isle City) by 1,204 votes. He beat Gibson by 1,309 votes in Cape May, while Gibson carried Cumberland by 92 and Atlantic by 14.