For the first time since 1975, Democrats will assume control of the Burlington County Board of Freeholders at 3 PM tomorrow when Felicia Hopson and George Youngkin are sworn in.
Youngkin will a freeholder for one day.
He suspended his candidacy in September when the Burlington County Times reported that he was arrested on domestic violence charges in 2006. It was too late to remove his name from the ballot. In a heavily Democratic year, Youngkin won anyway. His win gave Democrats a 4-1 majority.
Democrats have 35 days to select a replacement. The leading candidates are: Gina LaPlaca, a former top aide to Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts and the director of state government affairs for Verizon; and Delran councilman Daniel O’Connell, a former New Jersey Transit locomotive engineer who served as state director of the United Transportation Union.
Insiders suggest that LaPlaca could be the front-runner, but stress that the race is far from being decided. There is a block of Democrats who want Youngkin’s replacement to be a woman, but O’Connell’s labor ties could prove valuable.
LaPlaca had been considered a possible candidate earlier this year, before Democrats went with Youngkin.
After the election, Democratic County Chairman Joseph Andl set a deadline of November 30 for candidates interested in Youngkin’s seat to file a letter of intent and resume with the county party organization.
This time, Andl doesn’t want any surprises.
The chairman has required prospective candidates to sign a release form that gave Democrats permission to conduct a through background check. A summary of the information gathered in that process will be released to the entire county committee.
One factor for the special election convention is the high vacancy rate on the Democratic County Committee. Of the 730 seats, 288 of them (39.5%) are vacant. Andl set a November 16 deadline for filling vacancies by appointment and still being allowed to vote on the freeholder race, although it is not immediately clear whether he has the legal authority to do that.
The winner of the special election convention will need to run in a November 2019 special election to fill the remaining 26 months of Youngkin’s term, although there is no requirement that Democrats nominate the replacement freeholder for the unexpired term.
The lone Republican freeholder, Latham Tiver, will also be up for re-election.