It’s down to Atlantic and Cumberland

Seventeen of New Jersey’s 21 counties are controlled exclusively by one political party. Democrats occupy every Freeholder seat in Camden, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Passaic, and Union counties and every countywide office in those eight counties. Republicans hold every Freeholder seat — and every constitutional office — in Burlington, Cape May, Hunterdon, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Somerset, Sussex and Warren counties. Only four counties — three within a short drive of Delaware — have two party government at the county level: Atlantic, Bergen, Cumberland and Salem. Control of county Freeholder Boards are at stake in only Atlantic and Cumberland in 2006. At the county level, Cumberland has emerged in recent years as the most politically competitive in the state — even though Democrats have controlled the Board of Freeholders for all but one year since 1972. Democrats now have a 4-3 majority and each party has one incumbent up for re-election in November: Democrat Louis Magazzu, and Republican James Rocco. Rocco, a retired Vineland Police Captain, won in 2003 by 124 votes over incumbent Donna Pearson; Pearson alleged that Magazzu cut a deal with Vineland Republicans to assure his own re-election at her expense — causing State Senator Stephen Sweeney and Assemblyman Douglas Fisher to call for Magazzu’s ouster as Democratic County Chairman. Governor James E. McGreevey later named Magazzu to the Delaware River Port Authority as a way of moving him out of the chairmanship, but with Sweeney exercising senatorial courtesy, Magazzu was never confirmed by the Senate. In 2005, three incunbent Freeholders, Democrats Bruce Peterson and Jane Christy Yetman and Republican Jeffrey Trout, won re-election. Trout’s margin of victory was 501 votes, and Republicans came within 2,370 votes of taking control. The GOP Sheriff, Michael Baruzza was re-elected to a third term by just 250 votes. Atlantic County has seen a resurgence by the Democrats — they won races for State Assembly, Surrogate and Freeholder in 2005 and the county Democratic organization backed Robert Levy for Mayor of Atlantic City in his successful primary against incumbent Lorenzo Langford. Republicans have a 6-3 majority on the Freeholder Board; three of their incumbents are up for election in 2006: Freeholder At-Large Frank Finnerty, District 2 Freeholder Thomas Russo, and District 5 Freeholder James Curcio. In Salem County, where control has been at stake every November in recent years, Democrats are assured to hold their 5-2 majority on the Freeholder Board. Republican David Sparks lost his seat by two votes in 2005. Democrat Beth Timberman and Republican Benjamin Simmermon are up for re-election this year. Democrats have six of the seven Freeholder seats in Bergen: the GOP will defend their lone Republican, Elizabeth Randall in 2006; another incumbent, Democrat Valerie Vainieri Huttle, who was elected to the State Assembly last year, is not seeking re-election.

It’s down to Atlantic and Cumberland