In a letter to county committee members, Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes pledged to take his bid for re-election to a sixth term directly to primary voters even if he loses the Mercer County Democratic convention.
Assemblyman Daniel Benson (D-Hamilton) is challenging Hughes for the Democratic nomination and has released a long list of endorsements from key party leaders.
“I do not want anyone to accuse me or any of my supporters of trying to tip the scales in our favor. That’s why I have agreed to do the same thing my challenger is doing — run in the primary for renomination,” Hughes said. “And I have agreed to share the party line with my opponent on the June primary ballot and which will allow all Democratic voters make this important decision.”
Under Mercer County’s party by-laws, Hughes and Benson can share the organization line as long as each of them wins at least 40% of the vote at the convention.
“My decision is not a reflection of the important work County Committee does identifying and vetting candidates before awarding them a spot in the party’s column,” stated Hughes. “It is merely an acknowledgment that I am well known and have been heavily vetted by the public and press as has my opponent.”
Hughes bemoaned the idea that he might be denied party support despite his achievements as county executive since ending a 24-year streak of Republican control in 2003.
“I know it’s not enough to say that I support open, fair and transparent elections — I have to walk the walk. In previous years, I received the endorsement of County Committee at our convention and, as the incumbent, I could reasonably expect to be awarded the party line again,” he said. “That is no doubt why my primary opponent has announced he will run in the primary regardless of the outcome of the party convention — that’s what challengers do.”
Hughes has said he will run full lines in the primary, if he has to. That could result in legislative primaries in the 14th, 15th and 16th districts and for county commissioner.
He has the backing of Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing), State Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Lawrence), Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-Trenton), and Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo (D-Hamilton).
Former State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff is exploring a bid for the Repubican nomination.
“This primary is critical because a top tier Republican is expected to run and we can’t allow Mercer County to revert to GOP control. We need firm, tested and experienced leaders on the ballot if we are going to continue our progress,”said Hughes. “For a race as important as County Executive, I believe an open, and transparent, election is the best way to ensure we have a nominee who can keep Democrats in charge of Mercer County.”