Republicans controlled the Mercer County Executive's office from 1979 until 2003, when Catherine DiCostanzo lost by just 1,673 votes (49%-47%) to Democrat Brian Hughes. Four years later, Hughes seems like a safe bet for re-election despite a seemingly strong GOP challenger: Janice Mitchell Mintz, who served in Governor Christine Todd Whitman's cabinet as Commissioner of Personnel, and as Assistant Counsel to Governor Thomas Kean. The 48-year-old lawyer and Republican State Committeewoman is smart, articulate, and has enough contacts to raise a competitive warchest. She has competitive candidates running at the top of her ticket: Bill Baroni, who can potentially win Hamilton and West Windsor by huge pluralities; Jennifer Beck in East Windsor and Hightstown; and Robert Martin, who is running an aggressive and well-financed race in District 15, which includes the rest of Mercer County.
But after six months as a candidate, Mintz's campaign is going nowhere. Sadly for her, one reason for the bad campaign could be her campaign manager, Bob McHugh. A fifty-something ne'er-do-well former Associated Press reporter, McHugh has bounced around alot in recent years, working for candidates from both parties (he was a press aide on Doug Forrester's 2002 U.S. Senate race, but was fired after an ugly incident with the candidate during a debate prep session), followed by a failed stint as a spokesman for a New York City agency (he was fired) before he somehow landed the Mintz gig. He is abrasive, rude, politically incorrect, offensive, and often inappropriate — and despite a long-standing Inside Edge tradition of not bashing staffers, it's clear that McHugh has played a key role in Mintz's potentially successful candidacy for one thing: worst campaign of the year.