Home>Campaigns>Hughes will not seek re-election as Mercer County Executive, endorses Benson

Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes at Gov. Phil Murphy’s FY2024 Budget Address. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Hughes will not seek re-election as Mercer County Executive, endorses Benson

Five-term incumbent ends campaign after losing organization line

By David Wildstein, March 08 2023 3:04 pm

Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes is dropping his bid for re-election after winning 22% of the vote at the Mercer County Democratic convention on Sunday, the New Jersey Globe has learned.

The withdrawal of Hughes, a five-term incumbent, paves the way for Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Hamilton) to succeed him next year.

Hughes has already begun making calls to inform supporters of his decision not to run.

“I’ve said throughout this campaign that I’ve never run against a fellow Democrat, and despite the fact that I’m being challenged in this race, it has become clear that the best path forward for Mercer Democrats is for me to step aside,” Hughes said. “I do not make this decision lightly, after more than 20 years in public office fighting for this county and every last resident.”

As recently as Sunday, after Benson scored a lopsided convention victory, Hughes had said he was prepared to take the fight through the June Democratic primary.

But on Monday, one of his top supporters, Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo (D-Hamilton), switched his endorsement from Hughes to Benson.

Other Hughes supporters, including State Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Lawrence) and Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-Trenton), had committed to running on the organization line with Benson.

In a statement this afternoon, Hughes endorsed Benson.

“At a time when extremist MAGA Republicans threaten our democracy and our most sacred constitutional principles, the stakes of this race could not be higher,” he said.  “To ensure our record of success continues in Mercer County, it’s time to unify for the good of the party. I believe Dan Benson has demonstrated his commitment to this county and our party, and he has my support in his campaign for County Executive.”

In announcing his retirement, Hughes said he was proud of his record on economic growth, environmental issues, preservation of open space, award-winning parks, pay-to-play regulations, better transportation systems, and infrastructure improvements.

“Together, we’ve made Mercer strong. A place you want to live,” stated Hughes.  A place you want to raise your children. A place where you can find a good job and a welcoming community,”

Hughes, 66, said he would continue to oppose organization lines, but does not want to create divisions within his party.

The son of Richard J. Hughes, who served as governor of New Jersey from 1962 to 1970 and chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court from 1973 to 1979, Hughes was the Democratic candidate for Congress against Rep. Christopher Smith (R-Manchester) in 1992 and was elected Mercer County freeholder in 1997 and 2000.

Hughes ended 24-years of Republican control of the Mercer County Executive’s office in 2003 when he defeated County Clerk Cathy DiCostanzo by 1,673 votes, 49%-47%.

This story was updated at 3:52 PM with comment from Hughes.

Spread the news: