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Burlington County Commissioner Felicia Hopson. (Photo: Nikita Biryukov for the New Jersey Globe)

Burlington GOP seeks a comeback

By David Wildstein, November 01 2021 11:59 am

Not too long ago, Burlington County had one of the most formidable county Republican political machines in the state, but demographic transformations finally caught up and Democrats began winning elections.  That was just four years ago, but now Burlington is entirely Democratic.

Still, sometimes when a county flips from one party to another, there are sometimes blips that give the old regime a small, albeit temporary, comeback.

That’s what the Burlington GOP is hoping for this year.  And so is Jack Ciattarelli, the Republican candidate for governor who needs to flip some Democratic areas of the state if he’s to beat Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday.

Ciattarelli’s lieutenant governor candidate, Diane Allen, is a Burlington legend – a former network television new anchor who spent 20 years representing the county in the New Jersey State Senate.   Republicans are counting on Allen’s name at the top of the ticket to bring their candidates across the finish line.

That would make a difference in the closely-watched 8th legislative district, where Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield (R-Westampton) faces State Sen. Dawn Addiego (D-Evesham), a longtime GOP officeholder who switched parties in early 2019.

Until 2017, Republicans had a 5-0 majority on what is now the Burlington County Board of Commissioners.  They lost two seats that year, when Murphy crushed then-Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno in Burlington by 15 points, and two more – and control — in the 2018 mid-term wave election that also saw Democrat Andy Kim (D-Moorestown) oust a two-term Republican congressman.   They won the fifth seat in 2020 when incumbent Latham Tiver, an Operating Engineers Local 825 official, lost re-election.

2018 was such a Democratic year that one of their freeholder candidates, George Youngkin, was elected by almost 10,000 votes despite suspending his campaign in September after news that he had been arrested on domestic violence and stalking charges in 2006 became public.

Youngkin had to actually take the oath of office and then resign, paving the way for Daniel O’Connell to take the seat.

The two Democrats who win in 2017 were easily re-elected, and now O’Connell and Commissioner Felica Hopson are up this year.

Against the two incumbents, Republicans are running former Eastampton Councilman John Adams and Albert Pallanti of Evesham.

Democrats also flipped the county clerk post in 2018 when Democrat Joanne Schwartz, a former freeholder, ousted incumbent Tim Tyler, a former Democrat, by 22,685 votes.  They won the Sheriff post Stanfield gave up in 2019 when Anthony Basantis won a 9-point victory.

The last round of Republican wins in Burlington came in 2016 when Freeholder Mary Ann O’Brien was elected Surrogate.  She resigned last year to become a Superior Court Judge.

Democrats are running Burlington Township Mayor Brian Carlin. The GOP candidate is Deborah Buzby-Cope, the mayor of Bass River.

With Stanfield giving up her Assembly seat and rising star Ryan Peters (R-Hainesport) stepping down after two terms in the legislature, both parties are competing for the two 8th disrtict Assembly seats.

If Democrats sweep, this will be the first time since 1963 that there would be no Republicans representing Burlington County in the New Jersey Legislature

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