March 15, 2023

Hughes Won’t Run For Another Term As County Executive

By Anne Levin

Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes has decided to end his campaign for an additional term. First elected to the post in 2004, Hughes has opted to step down after losing the endorsements of the Mercer County Democratic Organization and Princeton Community Democratic Organization to Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Hamilton).

Originally vowing to continue his election campaign, Hughes released a statement on Wednesday, March 8. “I’ve said throughout this campaign that I’ve never run against a fellow Democrat, and despite the fact that I’m being challenged in this race, it has become clear that the best path forward for Mercer Democrats is for me to step aside,” he said. “I do not make this decision lightly, after more than 20 years in public office fighting for this county and every last resident.”

Benson issued a statement thanking Hughes for his public service. “I appreciate his outreach to me and his offer of support and assistance,” he said. “With the path ahead clear, it’s time for our party to come together. I’m excited to work with all of Mercer County to build the next chapter in county government.”

Hughes is the son of former Governor and Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard J. Hughes, and has lived in Mercer County most of his life, both in Trenton and in Princeton. Prior to becoming county executive, he served as deputy executive director of the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.

Under his leadership, more than 5,700 acres of open space have been preserved. The county has “built a thriving economy from the bottom up, and turned Mercer into a transit hub for the entire region through Trenton-Mercer Airport,” reads the statement from Hughes’ office. “It is home to an award-winning parks system visited by more than two million people every year, and has completed groundbreaking infrastructure projects providing good-paying, union jobs.”

Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) commented, “I would like to take a moment to thank my friend Brian Hughes for his tremendous service to our county and our Democratic party,” she said. “It wasn’t that long ago that Mercer County was Republican-dominated, and Brian was among the first to step

up and successfully take on the challenge to slowly advance our Democratic values reflective of Mercer County’s residents. His work for our party is only matched by the remarkable job he did in leading our county government to provide outstanding services for every resident, even as he focused on making Mercer County affordable.”

Watson Coleman added, “I applaud the selfless decision of Brian’s to not put our county through the burden of a primary. Today it is time for each of us to stand with Dan Benson in his campaign to be our next county executive. It’s time for us all to unite to make sure we don’t allow Mercer County to turn red again.”

Reflecting on his time in office, Hughes said, “Twenty years ago, I took on the Republican machine in Mercer and won. I’m deeply proud of the fact that since I took office, Republicans have not won a single countywide race. We pushed back Republican rule and turned Mercer into a model for progressive leadership for the entire state.”

He added, “At a time when extremist MAGA Republicans threaten our democracy and our most sacred constitutional principles, the stakes of this race could not be higher. To ensure our record of success continues in Mercer County, it’s time to unify for the good of the party. I believe Dan Benson has demonstrated his commitment to this county and our party, and he has my support in his campaign for county executive.”

Hughes was honored Sunday by the Delaware Valley Chapter of the National Football Foundation, which named him the 2022 Robert F. Casciola Distinguished American Award recipient. The award is named for the All-Ivy League tackle for Princeton University, who spent 20 years in the college coaching ranks as an assistant coach at Princeton and Dartmouth College, and then as head coach at the University of Connecticut and Princeton. The award ceremony was held at the Princeton Marriott at Forrestal.

The award recognized Hughes’ commitment to people from all walks of life. “While I may not have done for the sport of football what Bob Casciola has, it has been my honor to serve the people of Mercer County and to dedicate myself to making a positive impact on society by uplifting all people, especially the underserved,” Hughes said. “To the scholar athletes, the things you do off the field will always be as important as what you do on the field. I encourage you to dream big, chase your dream, and strive to be the great citizens this country needs.”