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Watchung school board member Amber Murad. (Photo: Amber Murad).

Murad wins Somerset GOP convention for county commissioner

By David Wildstein, March 15 2022 9:47 pm

Watchung school board member Amber Murad won the Somerset County Republican organization line for County Commissioner on Tuesday, defeating former Bound Brook Councilman John-Paul Levin by a vote of 124 to 81, 60.5%-39.5%.

Murad is expected to face the Democratic incumbent, Melonie Marano, in the general election as Republicans seek to regain one seat in Democratic-leaning Somerset.

Republicans unanimously picked Manville Councilwoman Suzanne Maeder to take on  County Clerk Steven Peter; and retired Hillsborough police detective John Sheridan is challenging Sheriff Darrin Russo.

Murad and Levin ran for county commissioner in 2021.  Murad received 184 votes and Bridgewater Councilman Michael Kirsh defeated Levin by six votes, 153 to 147.

In the general election, Murad came within 2,065 votes of ousting Democratic incumbent Sara Sooy.

Somerset has become a Democratic-leaning county over the last five years and all three Democratic incumbents are seeking re-election to their second terms.    But races in Somerset are still competitive and Republicans view Joe Biden’s mid-term elections, with Gov. Phil Murphy’s favorables taking a little bit of a downturn, as their opportunity to regain a foothold.

Peters was elected in 2017 when he ousted GOP county clerk Brett Radi by 407 votes, 50.3%-49.7%.

Russo defeated North Plainfield Police Chief Bill Parenti in 2019 by 3,131 votes, 52%48%.

Also in 2019, Marano unseated four-term Republican Freeholder Patricia Walsh by 856 votes, 50.6%-49.4%.  The race was a rematch of  the 2007 freeholder campaign, when Walsh defeated Marano by a narrow 1,867-vote margin, 51.5%-49.5%.

Somerset Democrats began their ascent with Peters’ election in 2017, followed by the election of Shanel Robinson and Sooy to the Board of Freeholders in 2018.  The defeat of Republican incumbents Mark Caliguire and Patrick Scaglione in the 2018 freeholder race, gave Democrats their first wins since Michael Ceponis was elected in 1979.

The election of Marano gave Democrats their first majority since the Lyndon Johnson was president in 1965.

The last-standing Republican freeholders, Brian Gallagher and Brian Levine, were unseated in 2020.

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