Five New Jersey counties elect County Executives, and those counties have elected nineteen white men since the post was first created in 1975. Despite the power that comes with the post, no County Executive has ever moved on higher office.
Peter Shapiro, elected to the the first Essex County Executive in 1978 at age 26, won the Democratic nomination for Governor in 1985; he won just 30% statewide against Republican incumbent Thomas Kean, losing every county and even every major city in the state. He lost his bid for re-election to a fourth term in 1986 to Democrat-turned-Republican Nicholas Amato.
James Treffinger, who became Essex County Executive in 1994 (after Amato’s successor, Thomas D’Alessio, went to prison), lost the 2000 GOP U.S. Senate primary. He was viewed as the front runner for the 2002 Republican U.S. Senate nominaton until a federal corruption investigation ended his race shortly after the filing deadline; Treffinger also went to prison.
Republican Richard Squires was elected Atlantic County Executive in 1979 (defeating incumbent Charles Worthington), and held the post until his retirement in 1999. Squires decided to return to public office three years later as a candidate for Sheriff, but lost to Democrat James McGettigan, who is now running against Squires’ successor, Dennis Levinson, for County Executive.
Pat Schuber, a Republican, was elected to serve as the second Bergen County Executive in 1990. He had formed a campaign committee to seek Marge Roukema’s open seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002, but decided instead to retire from politics completely. Mercer County Executive Robert Prunetti, who served from 1991 to 2003, often expressed interest in running statewide, but never did.