Home>Local>Bergen>Nine counties have contested primaries for countywide offices on Tuesday

Mendham Township Committeewoman Sarah Neibart, left, and Morris County Commissioner Tom Mastrangelo.

Nine counties have contested primaries for countywide offices on Tuesday

By David Wildstein, June 06 2022 2:14 pm

Nearly half of the counties in New Jersey have no competitive primaries for countywide office in a state where most races are decided by political parties before the filing deadline.

Of the nine counties that have primaries for county commissioner or a constitutional office, just two are even remotely competitive in a general election.

The top race to watch is in Morris, where incumbent county commissioner Tom Mastrangelo is mounting an off-the-line bid for re-election to a fifth term after losing party support.  The Republican county convention for the three seats was won by a longtime incumbent, Douglas Cabana, along with former Freeholder Christine Myers and Mendham Township Committeewoman Sarah Neibart.

Sheriff James Gannon is unopposed.

Bergen County Republican have a primary for county executive and for three county commissioner seats.  The organization candidate, Todd Caliguire, a flawed perennial candidate who served as a freeholder in the 1990s, faces Fort Lee realtor Linda Barba for the chance to take on two-term County Executive James Tedesco.  Caliguire has the line, but Barba has column 1 on the ballot.

In 2018,  Paul Duggan ran off the line for county executive in 2018 and came within 123 votes of upsetting the organization candidate, Bergenfield Mayor Norman Schmelz.   Duggan is running for county commissioner on the Barba ticket, along with Angelique Hakim and Mary Guinchard.  They face Caliguire’s running mates: Douglas Holden, Diedre Paul and Ronald Lin.

Both parties have contested countywide primaries in Burlington County.

County Commissioner Allison Eckel, the winner of an April special election convention that prompted a court challenge, faces Mount Holly Mayor Jason Jones in the Democratic primary.  Jones is running in order to establish a slate for an off-the-line county committee fight in Mount Holly.  The organization candidate for sheriff, James Kostoplis, a former undersheriff, faces Jones’ running mate, Lee Eckart, a former Westampton township committeeman.

The incumbent Sheriff, Democrat Anthony Basantis, is not seeking re-election to a second term.

Mike Ditzel, a Burlington County Sheriff’s Department lieutenant  and U.S. Coast Guard veteran who once served as Undersheriff,  is unopposed in the GOP primary.  Ditzel lost to Basantis three years ago.

The GOP organization candidate for county commissioner, former Moorestown school board member Jeff Fortune, faces a primary challenge from Valerie Gallagher.  Gallagher is running to allow congressional candidate Ian Smith to get a preferential ballot draw in his 3rd district race against Bob Healey, Jr.    Smith and Gallagher drew Column 1 in the primary.

Gallagher was arrested on drunk driving charges in April, a few weeks after filing her nominating petitions.  She has entered a not guilty plea and is due in court next month.

In his bid for a  third term, Warren County Sheriff James McDonald faces Todd Pantuso in the Republican primary.  McDonald spent 19 years as the Washington Township Chief of Police before winning election as sheriff in 2013.  Pantuso is a former undersheriff and who now serves as the emergency management coordinator in Alpha and as police officer in Washington Township.

Hunterdon County Sheriff Fred Brown, a popular four-term incumbent, faces a primary challenge from Todd Hunt.

Two veteran Camden County Commissioners, Edward McDonnell and Carmen Rodriguez, face  primary challenges from candidates running on the “South Jersey Progressive Democrats” banner: Rebecca Holloway and Wilhelmus Schrieks.

In Middlesex County, Sheriff  Mildred Scott is unopposed for renomination in the Democratic primary.

But incumbent county commissioners Charles Kenny, Clary Azcona-Barber and Chanelle Scott-McCullum face two challengers in the Democratic primary: Atif Nazir and Herb Tarbous.  Nazir and Tarbous are running to allow off-the-line candidates for Piscataway Township Council  to get a better ballot position.

The county clerk, Democrat Nancy Pinkin, initially cancelled the ballot drawing, but then held it a few days later under court order.  She wound up picking the rebel slate for Column A and putting the organization in Column B.

On the Republican side, three organization-backed candidates for county commissioner – Joellen Arrabito, Martin Herrmann and Gerald Shine – face challenges from Demetra Wagner, Sam Raval and Frank Bella, who are allied with congressional candidate Rik Mehta.

Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden faces a primary challenge from former Freeholder Gary Rich, Sr.  Rich, whop had been denied re-election support for his freeholder seat, is running on a slate with Mike Crispi, who is challenging Rep. Christopher Smith (R-Manchester) in the 4th district.

County Commissioners Tom Arnone and Nick DiRocco are on the line with Smith and Golden.  They face primary challenges from two others on the Crispi slate: Englishtown Councilman Daniel Francisco and Steven Rich, who is Gary Rich’ son.

Two longtime Ocean County Commissioners, Virginia Haines and Jack Kelly, faces from Tom River Board of Education member Ashley Lamb and Sergio Fossa, the pastor at Grace Bible Church in Allenwood.   Lamb and Fossa are also running on the Crispi slate.

Crispi’s rival slate has Column A in Monmouth and Ocean counties.

Incumbent Democratic county commissioners in Union County are unopposed in tomorrow’s primary, but that race isn’t necessarily over.  Insurgent candidates were tossed from the ballot in April after a judge found they didn’t get the necessary 100 signatures, but that case is under appeal.  A state appellate court judge, Hany Mawla, has inexplicably set the first set of briefs for that contest to be submitted on Friday, three days after the primary.

Off-the-line candidates, especially those who drew preferential ballot positions, will be closely watched by both sides in a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of organization lines.  A federal judge declined to dismiss the lawsuit last month, allowing the case to move to the discovery phase.

Correction: an earlier version of this story omitted sheriff’s primaries in Hunterdon and Warren counties.

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