If the Republicans can build on recent wins in Gloucester and Cumberland counties in next year’s mid-term elections, it might mean a Red Wall of county government control in six of eight South Jersey counties – everywhere but Camden and Burlington.
Add that to Republican state senators from Atlantic, Burlington, Cumberland and Gloucester counties and suddenly the GOP would be positioned to offset the power of the South Jersey Democratic machine headed into 2023 mid-terms and the next governor’s race.
Republicans won two Gloucester County Commissioner seats earlier this month, reducing the Democratic majority from 7-0 to 5-2, and unseated a five-term Democratic Sheriff.
In Cumberland, two Republicans were elected to the County Board of Commissioners, bringing the Democratic majority to 4-3.
That gives the Cumberland County GOP Chairman, State Sen. Michael Testa, Jr. (R-Vineland), a chance to control county government after next year’s election. To take control for the first time since 2011, Republicans would need to hold one of their current seats – Douglas Albrecht is up for re-election – and oust two-term Democratic incumbent Darlene Barber.
Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis) will head the Republican ticket in Cumberland County in Joe Biden’s mid-term election. This year, Jack Ciattarelli carried Cumberland by 12 points in his race against Gov. Phil Murphy. In 2017, Murphy won Cumberland by 13 points.
Testa won his second term in a landslide, taking Cumberland County with 60% of the vote. A rising star who shows up on GOP short lists for statewide office, Testa’s political fortunes would be enhanced if Republicans take the majority of the county commissioner seats.
Republicans will need to take out both Democratic commissioners in Gloucester County next year to take control: Frank DiMarco and Dan Christy. Both won by over 7,000 votes in 2019, but following Edward Durr’s defeat of Senate President Steve Sweeney, all bets are off.
Also up in 2022 is five-term Democratic County Clerk James Hogan, an 80-year-old Gloucester County legend. That puts the GOP in reach of controlling everything but the Surrogate’s office next year. Republicans haven’t controlled county government since 1986.
Hogan was elected Sheriff as a Republican in 1988 and left after two terms to challenge Rep. Rob Andrews (D-Haddon Heights) in Bill Clinton’s 1994 mid-term election but got crushed with just 28% of the vote. He came back to win an open County Clerk race in 1997 and switched parties to win re-election as a Democrat in 2002 – one year after Sweeney ousted Democrat-turned-Republican eight-term State Sen. Raymond Zane (R-Woodbury).
Gloucester County Republican Chair Jacci Vigilante and GOP strategist Steve Kush have been saying for the last few years that the South Jersey county is headed toward a political realignment.
Ciattarelli beat Murphy in Gloucester by ten points; Murphy had won the county by 13 points four years ago.
Republicans are locked in to control of Atlantic, Cape May, Ocean and Salem counties regardless of the 2022 elections, while Democrats are similarly positioned in Burlington and Camden.