Hughes Vows to Fight To Continue Campaign For County Executive
By Anne Levin
Despite losing the Mercer County Democratic Organization’s endorsement to Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Hamilton) last Sunday, as well as the Princeton Community Democratic Organization’s (PCDO) backing a few weeks before, Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes is not giving up on his bid to continue in the office he has held since 2004.
“Today’s convention results come as no surprise considering the planned and orchestrated maneuvering by the Mercer County Democratic Chair Janice Mironov and my opponent, Dan Benson, who are intent on weakening our party for their own personal ambitions and gain,” Hughes said in a statement issued after the gathering at the Hyatt Regency on Route 1. “I believe the voters of this great county recognize effective leadership and my long record of accomplishments. We have always put our constituents first by providing critical services and opening up county government to everyone regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, or geography.”
In the 499 votes that were cast at the county gathering, 384 went to Benson while 109 were for Hughes. That means Benson will run on the primary ballot in June as the sole county executive candidate endorsed by the Mercer County Democratic Organization.
At the PCDO’s annual endorsement meeting on February 23, held at The Jewish Center Princeton, Benson was endorsed with 76 percent of the vote. Also endorsed at that event were
Andrew Zwicker (one seat) for Senate, Roy Freiman and Mitchelle Drulis for Assembly (two seats), John Cimino and Lucy Walter for Mercer County commissioners
(two seats), Jack Kemler for sheriff (one seat), and David Cohen and Leticia Fraga for Princeton Council (two seats).
The PCDO meeting was held at an earlier date than in recent years to give the membership a chance to make their voices heard before the March 1 Princeton Democratic Municipal Committee meeting, which recommends ballot placement for the municipal candidates; and the county meeting, which awards the party’s official endorsements for county, state, and federal offices (when applicable).
The candidates had the opportunity to address attendees with prepared statements, and to answer questions submitted by PCDO members. The contested county sxecutive race generated the most questions, which were focused on budget priorities, fiscal oversight and control, the Bridgepoint 8 warehouse project, the American Rescue Plan, the Mercer County Correction Center, income inequality, public health services, and the Better Ballot initiative to abolish the “County Line.”
Hughes’ statement following the county meeting said Benson’s campaign “will no doubt release a statement that he has been ‘chosen’ by the party to be our next county executive. But that is not true. A mere 384 party insiders voted for Benson — many of them hand-picked by our Democratic Party boss. I believe that the more than 120,000 Democratic voters in this county should have a say in who their nominee for county executive is, so I am confident that those voters will nominate me on June 6 to continue our record of accomplishments.”
Hughes cited job creation, economic development, more parks, and improvements at Trenton-Mercer Airport as accomplishments he plans to build on. “We have much more to do, and we have every intention of getting it done,” he said. “Make no mistake, I am fully committed to being successful in the primary and I am excited about finishing what I have started.”
In his speech to delegates before the convention vote, Benson said, “I’m focused on the needs of Mercer County. I’m committed to working with our local elected officials to bring real innovation, transparency, and collaboration. As county executive, you will always know where I stand. I will invest in our future through better infrastructure, education, and helping those that need it most. I believe diversity is our strength and we will make county
government even more diverse in every aspect moving forward.”
He added, “Sometimes the status quo is riskier than making a change. With the Hughes administration, we’ve seen too many missed opportunities, empty promises, and wasted taxpayer dollars. To keep winning in November, we need to make the right choice today and make a change for the future of Mercer County.”
Primary Election Day is Tuesday, June 6.