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Mercer County Commissioner Andrew Koontz. (Photo: Andrew Koontz).

Koontz not seeking re-election as Mercer commissioner

Melker will run again; no clear field for rare open seat

By David Wildstein, November 15 2021 4:37 pm

Mercer County Democrats will have about four months to figure out who will replace County Commissioner Andrew Koontz, who announced last week that he will not seek re-election to a fifth term in 2022.

“It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve the people of Mercer County as a Mercer County Commissioner, but after much consideration I have decided to not seek a fifth term to the board,” Koontz said on Facebook.  “I’m looking forward to continuing to do the work of the people for the remainder of my current term.”

Another incumbent, Nina Melker, will seek party support for another term.

“I intend to run for re-election,” Melker told the New Jersey Globe.

Eight Democrats initially sought the Democratic organization line for three county commissioner seats earlier this year following the retirement of six-term incumbent Pat Colavita, Jr.

While incumbent Samuel Frisby easily won the March convention for another term, the competition for the open seat led to the defeat of a nine-term incumbent who had not paid close attention to Democratic county committee members.

Hopewell Township Committeewoman and former mayor Kristin McLaughlin and political newcomer Terrance Stokes defeated Ann Cannon, who had first won in 1994, on the third ballot at the party convention.

“We no longer can take anything for granted,” said Melker, who won a special election in 2018 and easily held her seat in 2019.  “You have to work hard.  It’s not a given that you’re going to get re-elected, either by the committee or by the constituents.”

The Democratic primary is tantamount to election in Mercer County, where Republicans haven’t won a countywide election in 21 years.  Mercer and Hudson are the only New Jersey counties where no Republicans hold any local office in municipalities that hold partisan elections.

The 2021 elections in Mercer County produced two noteworthy winners.

In Pennington, former Commissioner of Human Services James Davy was elected mayor of Pennington.  Davy worked for James E. McGreevey when he served as Woodbridge mayor and as governor.  The new First Lady of Pennington is Lucille Del Tufo Davy, a former Livingston resident who served as Gov. Richard Codey’s Commissioner of Education.  The two were the only husband-and-wife cabinet members in state history.

Deborah Blakely, who had been appointed to fill a vacancy as a councilwoman in Robbinsville, won a full term this year in their non-partisan election.   She is the widow of Tom Blakely, a legendary New Jersey Republican political consultant, and was the top vote-getter in Robbinsville.

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