Democrats have picked North Brunswick Councilwoman Claribel Cortes to become the new Surrogate, putting her on a path to become the first Latina to hold a constitutional row office in Middlesex County, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
She will replace Kevin J. Hoagland, who retired at the end of 2020 after 28 years as the Middlesex County Surrogate.
Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to nominate Cortes to fill the vacancy, a move that requires Senate confirmation.
If Cortes is approved, it would mean that all three row offices in Middlesex would be occupied by women – two of them minorities. Mildred Scott is the first and only Black woman to serve as a Sheriff in New Jersey.
Last month, Middlesex Democrats picked Sterley Stanley as the first South Asian American assemblyman from the county. The East Brunswick councilman replaced Nancy Pinkin, now the county clerk, in the legislature.
The changes fulfill a diversity pledge made by Kevin McCabe when he ran for Middlesex County Democratic Chairman.
With an election for a five-year term coming up in November, Cortes will still need to appear before the Middlesex County Democratic screening committee, win the March nominating convention and the June primary before she heads to a general election.
Republicans have not won a countywide race in Middlesex since 1991.
Cortes, 41, was appointed to fill the North Brunswick Township Council in 2020 following the death of Robert Corbin. The former Board of Education member is the vice chair of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey.
In a 2020 race for a full term on the North Brunswick council, Cortes was the top vote-getter in a general election contest in which she ran unopposed.
Her resignation from the council will trigger a special election this year for the remaining 26 months of her term.
As a journalist, Cortes covered 9/11 and the Iraq War for Fox News and worked for ABC New on several documentaries.