Tom DeGise might face a general election opponent who is 50 years his junior.
Eighteen-year-old college student Kennith Gonzalez announced today that he will seek the Republican nomination for Hudson County Executive.
A political science student at Seton Hall University, Gonzalez is a first-generation Cuban American who grew up in Union City.
“Having served as the former chairman of the Hudson County Teenage Republicans, I know that the Republican Party in Hudson County is a diverse and welcoming Party that represents the values we all share,” said Gonzalez. “As a fluent Spanish speaker who has been raised to have pride in both America and my Cuban heritage, I especially look forward to meeting and conversing with the growing Hispanic community about my vision for Hudson County’s future.”
Gonzalez is expected to be the candidate of the Hudson County Republican Organization.
If he wins, Gonzalez would become the youngest person to win a county executive race in New Jersey. The record now belongs to Peter Shapiro, who was 23 when he ousted an incumbent assemblyman in the Democratic primary, 26 when he was elected Essex County Executive, and 33 when he was the Democratic nominee for governor of New Jersey.
Gonzalez has an uphill battle against the popular DeGise.
There are 166,702 more Democrats than Republicans in Hudson County – and 74,206 more Democrats than unaffiliated voters. Republicans have not won a countywide election in Hudson since 1956.
Democrats have held the Hudson County Executive post continuously since it was created in 1975, and DeGise has held the job since winning a 2002 special election.
DeGise won 82% of the vote in his 2015 re-election campaign against Ivan Sutherland.
Gonzalez, a former state Teenage Republican chairman, said he wants his campaign to help build the Republican Party in Hudson County.
“I want my candidacy to instill confidence in other young women and men who can make a difference in their community, county, state, and beyond,” Gonzalez said.
Another Union City native, Bob Menendez, launched his political career at age 20 when he won a seat on the Union City Board of Education at age 20.