Unable to field a candidate both willing and able to do the job, Mercer County Republicans yesterday took a pass on replacing a freeholder candidate who had dropped out last month.
Yesterday was the deadline to file a replacement candidate for Republican Darren Chell, who dropped out of the race on August 8th citing personal and business obligations.
Mercer County Democratic Chairman Rich McClellan gleefully pointed that out in a press release today, trumpeting it as a proof that Republicans tacitly acknowleged that Democrats ran an effective county government.
"I want to thank Roy Wesley and the Republicans for providing the outstanding evidence to demonstrate what a great job the Democrats are doing in managing County government. By failing to fill the freeholder candidate vacancy, the Republicans are conceding the fact,” joked McClellan.
On a more serious note, however, McClellan took an outraged tone that Republicans would insult the Democratic process by leaving an open spot on the ballot. Republicans Cindy Randazzo and Tom White are still on the ballot to run against Democrats Lucy Walter, Dan Benson and John Cimino.
“I don't want to hear any more hot air from the Republicans about what a Democratic monopoly on County government means to the voter. By failing to even step up to the plate, they've sacrificed whatever credibility they could have claimed on the issue,” said McClellan. “I am personally disappointed in Roy Wesley for failing to uphold his responsibilities as Chair of his Party. By allowing his party to take a dive on the Freeholder race, Mr. Wesley has done a disservice to himself, his party and the voters as well.”
Mercer County Republican Chairman Roy Wesley argued that his party could have fielded a “placeholder” candidate, but chose to focus on candidates who were truly committed to running. Putting someone else who wasn’t qualified or ready to run on the ballot, he said, would have been the real disservice to voters.
Wesley said that the party interviewed several people about the prospect.
“Going over the candidates, none felt they could run an effective campaign in the short amount of time that was left,” he said. “Our concern was that we wanted to have a candidate who wasn’t just a placeholder – who wanted to seriously run for public office.”
Wesley scoffed at the joke that the failure to find a suitable candidate had anything to do with Democratic effectiveness. He brought up what he said was the county government’s failure to do anything about an employee at the County Clerk’s office who was suspected of stealing money, or the giveaway of naming rights to a minor league ballpark that could have been worth $2 million.
‘The only disappointment in this election should be in the freeholder board, which is basically a do-nothing board,” he said. “We don’t need three candidates to go to the voters and make the point that the freeholder board has done absolutely nothing of value, and that Rich McClellan has to speak for them because they’re afraid if they have to speak for themselves, what they will in fact do is make it clear they’ve done nothing.”
Wesley went on to challenge the freeholders who were up for reelection to defend their records, rather than have McClellan do it for them.
“I think the only one blowing a lot of hot air today is Rich McClellan. I’m surprised he’s worked up over this. But I think the reason he’s so worked up over it is he knows he has a do-nothing freeholder board,” he said. “Every time a serious issue comes up, he has to speak for them.”