Burlington County Republican Chairman Bill Layton doubts his party will have to defend two open freeholder seats this year, when control of the board hanging in the balance. But even if they do, Layton said it won't make a difference.
"It doesn't matter if there are two vacancies or not. Last year we lost an election because of Barack Obama, and this year that dynamic has changed. We have Chris Christie at the top of the ticket," he said.
Both Jim Wujcik and Bill Haines – the only freeholders up for reelection — are mulling retirement.
While Layton was less certain about Wujcik, he was confident that Haines would decide to give it another go.
"Bill Haines has been a great freeholder, and he's contemplated running for reelection a few times during the last couple elections he's run," Layton said. "I think he indicated pretty clearly that he's interested in running and a lot of things changed when Aubrey [Fenton] and Stacey [Jordan] lost."
Haines delicately straddles the deep divide in the Burlington County Republican Party, somewhere between Layton and his political mentor, former Chairman Glenn Paulsen, and the allies of the organization's foremost internal critic, state Sen. Diane Allen (R-Burlington).
To hear Republicans tell it, Haines may have reservations about stepping down because he is concerned that Democrats will take control of the board and do away with the open space programs he has championed during his five terms. Conversely, Democrats say Haines may be reluctant to quit because he doesn't trust Layton and Paulsen to pick candidates who will back open space initiatives with the same zeal.
"I won't comment on who I trust and who I don't, but of course that program is very important to me, and it's been the thing that I've been most passionate about in the last 15 years. So that's very much on my mind," said Haines.
Like Layton, Burlington County Democratic Chairman Rick Perr said that he's not concerned with whether or not his candidates face off against incumbents.
"It's like football. We won the NFC championship and we're moving onto the super bowl no matter who wins the AFC championship," he said, referring to his party routing out incumbents Fenton and Jordan last year. "The Republican Party — no matter who runs, incumbents or newcomers, they are tainted with the same broad brush of corruption, mismanagement and fiscal recklessness."
When asked about Layton's comments about the Obama wave being primarily responsible for Democratic gains last year, Perr said "I hope they believe that."