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Somerset County Sheriff Frank Provenzano

Somerset GOP sheriff primary too close to call

Parenti leads Pino by 223 votes

By David Wildstein and Nikita Biryukov, June 05 2019 12:43 am

The race for the Republican nomination for Somerset County Sheriff is too close to call and there is unlikely to be a winner any earlier that Friday.

With 100% of the machine votes counted, Bill Parenti has a 223 vote lead over Tim Pino, 6,944 to 6,721 — 50.7%-49.1%.

It is not immediately clear how many provisional ballots were cast or the number of vote-by-mail ballots that will arrive at the Board of Elections before close of business on Thursday.

Pino won 65% in Bridgewater, where he ran on a line with the winner of a hotly contested GOP mayoral primary.  He won 65% of the VBM ballots.

Parenti, the North Plainfield police chief, ran on the organization line.  Pino is a retried K-9 commander with the Sheriff’s Department.

Darrin Russo won the Democratic primary by a 59%-40% margin against Arthur Akins.

Six-term Republican incumbent Frank Provenzano is retiring, He won re-election by just 1,286 votes in 2016 against Russo, a former Franklin Township police lieutenant.

The county has 15,798 more Democrats than Republicans.  A decade ago, Republicans had an edge of 879.

Somerset has gone Democratic in the last three presidential elections, with Hillary Clinton winning by 20,184 votes in 2016.  Murphy and U.S. Senator Bob Menendez won Somerset in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

In 2017, Somerville Councilman Steven Peter unseated veteran Republican County Clerk Brett Radi by 407 votes; the Democratic Freeholder candidates lost by 1,489 votes.

Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Rocky Hill) became the first congressman from Somerset County since Michael Pappas lost re-election in 1998.  He ousted five-term Rep. Leonard Lance in the November 2018 mid-term, carrying the Somerset portion of his district by 8,758 votes (53%-45%).

In total, Somerset County voters cast 60% of their ballots in 2018 for Democratic congressional candidates.  Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing) won her part of Somerset with 70% of the vote.

Two Democratic Assemblymen live in Somerset: Joe Danielson (D-Franklin) and Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough).  A third, Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick), lives in Middlesex County, but his district is mostly in Somerset County.

Democrats are beginning to build a bench in Somerset, where they’ve made significant gains on the local level.

For the first time, women hold a majority of seats on the Somerset freeholder board.  Sara Sooy is the county’s first Hispanic freeholder and Shanel Robinson is the first Black to serve on the board.

The last time Somerset County elected a Democratic Sheriff was in 1964, when Rocky Hill police chief George Gurisic ousted six-term GOP incumbent Ernest Hunnewell in the Lyndon Johnson-led Democratic landslide that year.

Republican Paul Zanowic, the North Plainfield police chief, defeated Gurisic in 1967.

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