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Senator Michael J. Doherty (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Doherty could take office as surrogate as early as November 21, if he wins general election

Special election convention for State Senate will come 7 to 35 days after Doherty resigns

By David Wildstein, August 27 2022 7:14 pm

The winner of the November 2022 election for Warren County Surrogate can take office around Thanksgiving, setting up a likely December special election convention for State Senate in the 23rd legislative district.

“The new surrogate will in fact be sworn-in immediately after the election is certified,” said John Donnadio, the executive director of the New Jersey Association of Counties.

The almost certain winner of that race is State Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Oxford), who said on Saturday that he will seek the Republican nomination for surrogate.

The post has been vacant since April when the Kevin O’Neill died two years into his third five-year term.  Republicans had picked Nancy Brown as their candidate in the general election, but she withdrew on Friday.

Doherty has filed a letter of intent to seek the post at a special convention called for September 1.  A filing deadline set by party leaders is tonight at 8:30 PM and so far, Doherty is unopposed.

The state has a statutory deadline of November 21 for the county clerk, Holly Mackey, to certify the election.  There’s little doubt that Doherty will win; he’s a strong vote-getter in Warren County, where a Democrat has not won a countywide election in 23 years.

That doesn’t mean Doherty must immediately take the oath of office, but there is a statute that requires surrogates’ to take office within 30 days.

Assuming Doherty wins, Republican county committee members in the 23rd district, which includes parts of Warren, Hunterdon and Somerset counties, must call a special election convention within 7 to 35 days to fill his Senate seat.

The early favorite to succeed Doherty in the State Senate is former Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt, a former Lopatcong mayor and the longtime Warren County GOP chairman.  Steinhardt has confirmed his intent to run for Doherty’s seat.

The winner of the special election convention would be sworn in at the next quorum call of the New Jersey Senate.

New Jersey does not hold special elections for unexpired terms for constitutional row offices like surrogate.  Instead, the term is reset.

In this case, the winner of the 2022 surrogate race in Warren County may serve a term of five years plus up to an additional 40 days, depending on when the winner chooses to be sworn in.

Following the resignation of Michael Saudino in 2018, two years into a three-year term, Democrat Anthony Cureton ran won a November 6 general election for a full term as Bergen County Sheriff.  He was sworn in on November 20 for a term that was three years and 41 days.

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