Democrats in Sussex County could be bracing for another fight over the county chair post – their second in three years – with Hamburg Democratic Municipal Chair Zoe Heath announcing that she will challenge incumbent Dawne Rowe in an election this summer.
While Democrats haven’t won a countywide race in Sussex since 1999, there are still nearly 27,000 registered Democrats in the county – more than Cumberland and Salem. Bernie Sanders carried Sussex County with 57% of the vote in 2016, his highest percentage in the state; the presence of a strong progressive activist base among Democrats in Sussex and Warren will be something candidates for governor in 2025 pay attention to.
In 2019, Heath indicated her support of Arati Kreibich in her bid to unseat Rep. Josh Gottheimer in the Democratic primary in New Jersey’s 5th district.
“It is time to unify the Sussex County Democratic Committee, move forward into this election cycle with the determination and grit needed for our candidates to succeed,” the Heath slate said in an announcement.
Heath, the founder of Sussex County Pride and the chair of the Sussex LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus, worked on Rep. Tom Malinowski’s 2022 re-election campaign as part of an independent expenditure from the Progressive Turnout Caucus.
Sparta Deputy Mayor Neill Clark will run with Heath for vice chair on a slate that includes Sussex County Democratic State, Committeewoman Michele Van Allen for secretary, and Vernon attorney Mark Heftler for treasurer.
Rowe was elected in 2020 after defeating incumbent Katie Rotondi by a vote of 90 to 48, a margin of 65%-35%. The election was not due until 2021, but was run after the state party sought to mediate infighting among local Democrats.
Rowe has not announced if she will seek re-election.
“We need strong, steadfast leadership who will engage and inform our voters about our positive, well-informed candidates, their policies and their platforms,” the Heath ticket said. “Our slate plans to effectively reorganize and rejuvenate the SCDC so that we can be the effective force against the out-of-touch and ill-informed politicians and policies that currently dominate Sussex County.”