The race for the Republican nomination for Somerset County sheriff has heated up, with three party leaders repudiating a mailer they say is meant to deceive county committee members before the March 25 convention.
Candidate Tim Pino used images of him standing next to a lawn sign for State Sen. Christopher Bateman (R-Branchburg) and former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-Hillsborough) and of a mailer from Sheriff Frank Provenzano’s 2016 re-election that included of a photo of him.
“The mailer in question is purposely misleading and deceitful,” said Ciattarelli. “Because Somerset County Republicans have always had a very fair and open process, including our upcoming county convention, at which I’ll be casting my vote, campaigns of this nature and this kind of mailer are unacceptable.”
Pino, a retired sheriff’s officer, pushed back on the criticism, noting that he is simply reminding voters of his past work on behalf of Republican candidates.
“Everything in that mailer is 100% factual,” Pino said. “There’s not a person in Somerset County that has put up more lawn signs for Sheriff Provenzano, made more phone calls and knocked on more doors than Tim Pino.”
Provenzano, who is not seeking re-election after eighteen years in office, said that he knows both candidates well and has endorsed North Plainfield police chief Bill Parenti as his successor.
“Frankly, I found the mailer to be deceptive and dishonest,” Provenzano said. “There is no doubt in my mind that it was intended to mislead voters in advance of the convention.”
Pino said Provenzano’s decision to promote him four times “speaks volumes about what he thinks of me.”
“He used me on his campaign flyer to win a close race,” Pino said. We didn’t see Bill Parenti on his flyer. I’m disappointed in the sheriff’s comments.”
Bateman also slapped Pino, but with less intensity that Ciattarelli and Provenzano.
“I encourage both candidates to run on their merits and on their records – and, in doing so, take great care not to mislead County Committee Members about endorsements,” Bateman said.
Pino said he’s not sure whether Bateman is referring to him or Parenti.
“I think Kip is pointing out my opponent saying he was endorsed by the North Plainfield police when he wasn’t,” Pino said.
The Pino mailer also included a photo of him with Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) and Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield).
Kean and Bramnick stopped short of criticizing Pino, but announced their endorsements of Parenti for sheriff.
“Chief Parenti is an outstanding law enforcement official. He has the qualifications and experience to continue the good work of Sheriff Provenzano improving the safety and health of Somerset County,” said Kean. “I fully support Chief Parenti as the next Somerset County Sheriff.”
Bramnick said he has known Parenti for a long time.
“He is a first class law enforcement official and will no doubt make a great Somerset County sheriff,” Bramnick said.