By MAX PIZARRO
At the Somerset County Republican Convention Thursday night, Freeholder Denise Coyle easily beat former Freeholder Ken Scherer of Hillsborough by a vote of 182-74, to earn the party’s nod for a run at a district 16 Assembly seat.
In the evening’s other contest — the race for Somerset County Freeholder — Greenbrook Mayor Pat Walsh prevailed over a crowded field that included Kate Whitman, daughter of former Gov. Christie Todd Whitman.
Coyle, who has served 16 years in elected office, is running for a seat created by the vacancy of Assemblyman Christopher “Kip” Bateman. Bateman is moving up to run for the seat of longtime Sen. William J. Kavanaugh, who’s retiring at the end of this term. Assemblyman Peter J. Biondi is also on the ticket with Bateman and Coyle.
“We want people to say they’re proud to live in New Jersey,” Coyle told a packed Elks Lodge that included three former governors: Donald DiFrancesco, Thomas Kean, and Whitman. “If I am fortunate enough to be elected, I pledge I will be a fulltime assemblyperson.”
In the Freeholder race, a spirited Walsh offered her record of 11 years’ experience with a municipal budget.
“What I really believe in, is all of you,” she told the crowd.
Whitman said her experience in government and politics “uniquely” qualified her for Freeholder. She said she had already campaigned hard to get on the ballot, and promised more of the same aggressive effort. “I will only repeat what Ronald Reagan said 20 years ago,” said Whitman, “‘You ain’t seen nothing yet.'”
Walsh and Warren Township Mayor Victor J. Sordillo initially made it out of the first round, besting Whitman; John Graf, president of the Somerset County United Way; and Montgomery Township Committeeman Mark Caliguire. Walsh beat Sordello on the second ballot by a vote of 205 to 121.
“I enjoyed the experience,” Whitman said after the first round of balloting produced Sordillo and Walsh. “A lot of people seem to think you need municipal experience.”
She suggested she might try that first before pursing a Freeholder seat.