November 23, 2022

Brian Hughes Seeks 2023 Re-Election, Faces Competition for County Executive

By Donald Gilpin

Brian Hughes

Brian M. Hughes, Mercer County executive since 2004, has announced that he will be seeking re-election in 2023 for a sixth term.

Speaking to a large gathering of supporters in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local #269 union hall in Lawrence Township on November 14, Hughes highlighted accomplishments under his leadership over the past 19 years and emphasized the need for progress on future projects.

“There are so many great things on the horizon for Mercer County, and that’s why I ask for your support,” he said.  Among the initiatives that he looks forward to overseeing in the coming years are the Trenton-Mercer Airport’s new terminal, the Dam Site 21 and Moore’s Station Quarry Park developments, and the installation of electric vehicle chargers throughout the county to keep up with demand. 

He talked about his administration’s accomplishments during the pandemic and the opening up of possibilities in the future. “We have all soldiered through the most serious and personal crisis of our time — a global pandemic,” he said. “I feel it has denied me two years to advance projects that have been on hold. But there are so many great things on the horizon for Mercer County. We are now past the depths of COVID, and with unemployment down and the business environment good, I want to see these through to fruition.”

Hughes, 66, reminded the crowd that his first term as county executive, 2004-2008, marked a shift in power from Republicans to Democrats in Mercer County government. “We know in politics and life that sometimes memories can be short, so let me remind everyone,” he said. “Twenty years ago, I took on the Republican machine and won. Since my first election we have had stable, Democratic leadership in Mercer County — at the county level and in local governments.”

He went on to emphasize his ability to work with leaders in both parties for the benefit of all. “I have worked cooperatively with all our elected officials, Democratic and Republican, to act in the best interest of Mercer County: to create jobs, build needed public improvements to our roads and facilities, to provide needed government services, to help our people and make Mercer County a place where we all want to live.”

Among the accomplishments he noted under his leadership, Hughes cited the construction of the Mercer County Courthouse, the county’s largest public project in history and one that created 750 construction jobs; the preservation of more than 5,700 acres of open space and farmland, more than 27 percent of Mercer County; and the county’s park system, which hosts more than two million visitors each year and “features some of the most unique programs in the state — horseback riding, tennis, a nature center, pickleball, five golf courses, a marina, and the recently acquired Hopewell Valley Golf Club.”

Hughes, who was a Mercer County freeholder before becoming county executive, is a Princeton resident and the son of the late Richard J. Hughes, who served two terms as New Jersey governor and later became chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court. 

Hughes is likely to face serious challenges in his bid for the Democratic nomination for county executive. Former Trenton Mayor Douglas Palmer and Assemblyman Daniel Benson (D-Hamilton) are both contemplating entering the race, according to New Jersey Globe.

The Mercer County Democratic organization is expected to hold a nominating convention early next year, with the primary election scheduled for June, followed by the general election in November.

“Across this county, people I meet share their praise for the quality of life here in Mercer,” Hughes told the November 14 gathering. “Our roads are in great shape, we stay on top of bridge repairs, our snowplows are timely, we’ve got a park system that’s second to none, our tax rate is steady, and our services are reliable. It’s a track record that I’m proud of and want to build upon.”