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Somerset County Commissioners Shanel Robinson, left, and Sara Sooy. (Photo: Somerset County Democratic Committee).

Somerset Democrats keep two county commissioner seats

Republican Michael Kirsch, who had been leading for the last week, now trails incumbent Sara Sooy by 678 votes

By David Wildstein, November 09 2021 5:31 pm

Democrat Sara Sooy has now taken a 678-vote lead over Republican Michael Kirsh and appears to have won re-election to the Somerset County Board of Commissioners.

Kirsh, a Bridgewater councilman who had been ahead of Sooy for the last week, now has a seemingly impractical path to victory.  There are about 200 ballots still uncounted.  It’s not clear when that will occur – the Somerset County Board of Elections offices closed down before 5 PM.

There are also some outstanding cure letters to correct technical defects in vote-by-mail ballots that have until Saturday to be returned.  Somerset County Board of Elections Administrator Jerry L. Midgette is among the least transparent election officials in the state and has not publicly released the number.

Sooy’s running mate, Commissioner Shanel Robinson is the top vote-getter with 54,889 votes, followed by Sooy (54,285), Kirsh (53,607), and Watching school board member Amber Murad (52,386).

In the race for governor, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy is 4,115 votes ahead, 51.4%-47.8%, over Somerset County favorite son Jack Ciattarelli, a former GOP assemblyman from Hillsborough.

At the local level, Republicans flipped ten seats in seven towns.

The GOP regained council majorities in Watchung and Bound Brook, defeated the lone Democratic councilman in Hillsborough and Bernards, and gained seats in Raritan and Manville.

In Bernardsville, Al Ribeiro, a former political consultant who worked on John McCain’s presidential campaign, flipped a Democratic borough council seat.  Now a Pfizer executive, Ribeiro worked for Jamestown Associates, a political consulting firm, from 2002 to 2005 and as New Hampshire political director for Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign.  He later joined the McCain campaign and served as Michigan State Director and as Deputy Regional Campaign Manager for the Great Lakes region.

Robinson and Sooy unseated Republican incumbents Mark Caliguire and Patrick Scaglione in the 2018 freeholder race, giving Democrats their first wins since Michael Ceponis was elected in 1979.

Democrats won one more seat in 2019, giving them their first majority since the Lyndon Johnson was president in1965, and two more in 2020.I

In 2020, the final two Republican freeholders, Brian Gallagher and Brian Levine, were unseated.

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