Home>Local>Gloucester>With Trump on the ticket, Gloucester Republicans hope for freeholder wins

From left, Gloucester County freeholder candidates Nick DeSilvo, George Shivery Jr. and Chris Konawel.

With Trump on the ticket, Gloucester Republicans hope for freeholder wins

Three seats up in county under complete Democratic control

By Nikita Biryukov, October 27 2020 2:07 pm

Republicans in Gloucester County are hoping President Donald Trump will be their golden ticket to three freeholder seats this year.

Their candidates — Greenwich Mayor George Shivery, Franklin School Board member Nick DeSilvio and business owner Chris Konawel — face an uphill battle against incumbents Heather Simmons, Lyman Barnes and Jim Jefferson.

Democrats hold a 7-0 majority on the freeholder board, and every constitutional officer in the county is a Democrat. Still, Trump narrowly carried the county in 2016, and Republicans hope his name at the top of the ballot could hand them their first countywide win since 2009.

“The focus is making sure that the voters don’t just vote for Trump and stop filling in ovals and stay in the column, and we’ve been pushing that and we’re pushing through to election day with more voter contact efforts,” Republican campaign manager Steve Kush said.

Kush said an internal poll conducted in the first congressional district — the New Jersey Globe has not reviewed this poll — found growing support for the president in that part of Gloucester County, and they’re banking on a solid turnout for the president in the second congressional district, where Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis) has irrevocably tied himself to the president following his defection to the GOP.

Polls over the last two months have consistently shown Democratic challenger Amy Kennedy with a slim but significant lead over Van Drew.

But, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) said his candidates would win even if Trump fared well.

“You never take anything for granted, ever, but normally our largest margins of victory are in presidentials,” Sweeney said. “The president was at the top of the ticket last time, and our freeholders blew them out even though Trump won the county.”

Trump won the county by 674 votes in 2016. It was the only county entirely controlled by Democrats to break in the Republican’s favor that year. Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Hugin won there by 3,787 votes in 2018.

But Democratic freeholder candidates have fared well regardless of what happened at the top of the ticket. In 2016, Freeholders Frank DiMarco and Dan Christy defeated Republican challengers Jack Scheidell and Carolyn King-Sammons with safe margins.

Christy ran 7,628, a three-point margin, votes ahead of Scheidell, the third-place finisher. DiMarco defeated the top-placing Republican by 13,206, or about five points.

The margins grew wider the next year, when Simmons, Barnes and Jefferson were on the ticket. They each defeated their Republican challengers by at least 12,000 votes, winning by six- and seven-point margins.

Still, the pandemic may hurt Democrats more than Republicans in Gloucester, but Sweeney said there’s little reason to expect that’ll change the result.

“We lost some of our advantage because of this — we have a much larger ground game than they do — but so far, the Democrats have outvoted the Republicans and the Independents combined in my county,” he said.

While the registration gap isn’t as wide as it is in some other Democratic strongholds, there are 34,602 more Democrats than Republicans in the Gloucester.

But the Republican are hoping their record of cost saving could put them ahead of Democrats

“You have two electeds that have been saving the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in their respective offices and one with a solid business background,” Kush said. “What they’ve really been pushing is, according to tax-rates.org, Gloucester County ranks the 28-highest median tax county in the country. Maybe it’s time, so they will be the taxpayer advocates for the county.”

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