Home>Campaigns>Benson’s county executive campaign kicks into gear with endorsement from Palmer

Assemblyman Dan Benson, with former Trenton Mayor Doug Palmer behind him, launches his campaign for Mercer County Executive. (Photo: Joey Fox for the New Jersey Globe).

Benson’s county executive campaign kicks into gear with endorsement from Palmer

Former Trenton mayor says Benson has ‘fought hard for the people most in need’

By Joey Fox, December 12 2022 3:07 pm

Former Trenton Mayor Doug Palmer endorsed Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Hamilton) for Mercer County Executive today, in an event that doubled as the kickoff of Benson’s primary campaign against five-term incumbent County Executive Brian Hughes.

“We don’t have to accept the status quo,” said Benson, a former county freeholder and Hamilton Township councilman. “We can do better. We must lead, so we can build a better Mercer County that works for all of us.”

In his endorsement, Palmer sharply criticized what he called the county government’s neglect of Trenton, saying that Benson would be a far better ally to New Jersey’s capital city.

“Over the last 20 years, the county has not stepped up to the plate,” Palmer said. “There has to be a collective belief that when Trenton succeeds, all of Mercer County succeeds… I saw in Dan a risk-taker, a person who always fought hard for the people most in need.”

Also in attendance at Benson’s kickoff were former Freeholder Keith Hamilton, the husband-and-wife duo of County Commissioner Sam Frisby and Trenton City Councilwoman-elect Teska Frisby, and Trenton City Council candidates Algernon Ward and Crystal Feliciano. Benson said he’d release a full list of endorsements later this week.

Palmer had considered running himself, saying in November that he thought it was “time for a change” in Mercer County. But he said today that he ultimately decided to defer to the 47-year-old Benson because he wanted a new generation of politicians to take the helm.

“I came to the realization that it’s about young leadership,” Palmer said. “I’ve had my day.”

Unlike many challenges to incumbents, it’s highly possible that Benson’s will get the party line at the Mercer County Democratic convention, though Benson committed to continue running even if he doesn’t win the line. Mercer County is solidly Democratic – none of its 12 towns have voted for a Republican president since 2004 – so whoever wins the primary is virtually assured of a victory in November.

Since next year is also a legislative election year, Benson will have to relinquish his seat to run for executive, leaving an open Assembly seat in the Democratic-leaning (but sometimes competitive) 14th legislative district.

Hughes was rarely mentioned by name at today’s announcement, but he still loomed large, with both Palmer and Benson repeatedly saying that Trenton had been neglected for the last 20 years – the same amount of time Hughes has held the executive post.

“Now is not the time for weak knees,” said veteran strategist Jeannine Frisby LaRue, Benson’s campaign chair, who added that there has long been a whisper campaign about challenging the 66-year-old Hughes.

Hughes, meanwhile, expressed confidence about his chances earlier today, saying that Palmer’s 20 years as mayor weren’t anything to brag about.

“If [Palmer’s] going to do for Dan Benson what he’s done for Trenton, then I feel pretty good,” Hughes said.

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