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Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes. (Photo: Princeton Public Library).

Hughes leaning towards running for re-election as Mercer County Exec

Longtime county leader may face a tough challenge in 2023

By Joey Fox, May 23 2022 4:52 pm

Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes, who has led his Central Jersey county since 2004, indicated today that he intends to run for re-election in 2023 but said he hasn’t firmly made up his mind.

 “I haven’t decided right now, but as things look right now, I feel very strongly that I’ve done a good job,” Hughes said. “We’ve built a new county courthouse, we’ve made improvements in our county jail, we’ve gotten approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to build a new county airport… I’m having fundraisers, and things look positive.”

A resident of Princeton and the son of former Gov. Richard Hughes, Brian Hughes served as a freeholder for six years before narrowly flipping the county executive’s office in 2003 against Republican opponent Cathy DiCostanzo. Though he hasn’t faced a competitive primary or general election in more than a decade, Hughes said today he welcomes anyone who might want to take him on next year.

“I’ve been county executive for a long time,” he said. “Anybody could run against me in a primary or a general election. This is America, I look forward to that.”

The deadline to file for the Mercer Democratic organizational line won’t be until February, so Hughes and his potential Democratic challengers still have time to make up their minds. One prominent figure who has been floated as a possible candidate – regardless of whether or not Hughes runs again – is Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Hamilton), who has represented the semi-competitive 14th legislative district since 2011. 

Mercer Democrats would not necessarily be in Hughes’ corner if Benson or another  serious challenger emerges. Hughes and Mercer County Democratic Chair Janice Mironov have a shaky relationship, especially after Hughes backed Ewing Councilman David Schroth for county chair against Mironov in 2020.

Hughes has also faced some scrutiny for repeated minor auto accidents, including two crashes in 2017 and a 2020 incident in which he was found by a Pennsylvania state trooper walking confusedly along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. In April 2021, Hughes said he would give up his county-issued car in light of the incidents.

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