The announcement that Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield will retire on May 1, seven months early and six months before the November general election, creates an opportunity for Democrats – now the majority party in Burlington – to take control of the Sheriff’s Department this spring.
Republicans have lost one of their top vote-getters heading into the November 2019 general elections.
There had been speculation that Stanfield was preparing to retire after six terms as sheriff.
Both parties are expected to re-open their candidate search now that Stanfield will not be a candidate. Even with Burlington becoming more Democratic in recent years, Stanfield still would have been favored to hold the seat.
Upon Stanfield’s departure, Undersheriff Diane Jasmine will become acting sheriff. Jasmine would remain in that post until January, when the winner of the general election is sworn in – unless Gov. Phil Murphy decides to name a replacement.
Only the governor can fill a vacancy for a constitutional row officer – sheriff, county clerk or surrogate – with the advise and consent of the State Senate.
The statute says that Murphy must nominate a Republican, but in a state of fungible election laws it’s possible some judge will allow a work-around.
Democrats will look to State Sen. Troy Singleton (D-Delran) to play a key role in that negotiation.
The recent party switch of Dawn Addiego (D-Evesham) would allow the Senate to confirm Murphy’s candidate since there would no longer be a Republican senator to block the nomination.
After Gloucester County Surrogate Helene Reed died in office last year, Murphy declined to appoint a replacement in Senate President Steve Sweeney’s home county.
The acting surrogate ran the office until Democrat Joe Chila, the winner of the general election, was sworn in last month.