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Claribel Cortes is sworn in to testify at her Senate confirmation hearing to become the new Middlesex County Surrogate on March 25, 2021. (Photo: MCDO.)

Cortes sworn in as new Middlesex surrogate

First Latina constitutional officer in county history

By David Wildstein, March 26 2021 2:42 pm

Women now occupy all three constitutional row offices in Middlesex County after Claribel Cortes was sworn in today as the new Middlesex County Surrogate.

The New Jersey Senate yesterday confirmed Gov. Phil Murphy’s nomination of Cortes to fill the vacancy caused by the retirement of Kevin Hoagland at the end of last year.  She is seeking a full five-year term on the Democratic organization line in 2021.

Cortes is the first Latina to hold a constitutional row office in Middlesex County.

To become Surrogate, Cortes has resigned her seat on the North Brunswick Township Council.  That will trigger an appointment to fill her seat on an interim basis and a special election in November.

“Claribel Cortes is a pioneer in every sense of the word. She has led a life of many firsts and we are excited that she will be leading the county ticket this year,” said Middlesex County Democratic Organization Chairman Kevin McCabe. “Claribel’s passion to serve her community and her experience as an innovative media specialist is the perfect combination to continue the work started by former Surrogate Kevin Hoagland.”

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.

“Like everyone else in America, the COVID pandemic has forced me to pause and reevaluate how I can make the greatest impact to better the community around me. So many of us have experienced unexpected loss due to the pandemic, and unfortunately, not everyone plans for the worst case scenario,” Cortes said.  “This is where the Surrogate’s Office can be a resource to help families when they need it most and help prepare for the unfair burden left after unexpected loss.”

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