Only two counties elect a Register of Deeds and Mortgages

Essex County Democratic Chairman Philip Thigpen is getting ready to run for office: he says he expected to become his party’s candidate for Register of Deeds and Mortgages. The organization supported Newark Central Ward Democratic Chairman Dwight Brown for Register in the June primary after incumbent Carole Graves declined to seek re-election. But Brown died unexpectedly over the summer, leaving Democrats without a candidate to face Republican Terriann Moore Abrams, a former South Orange Village Trustee.

The post has a $91,650 annual salary and is a five-year term.

Essex and Hudson are the last counties to have an elected Register of Deeds and Mortgages. In the other nineteen counties, the County Clerk performs their duties. Camden eliminated the position after Republican Susan Rose won the post in 1990. Union got rid of the post in 1995 when the incumbent, Joanne Rajoppi, ran for County Clerk.

Four years after Democrat Gerard DeStefano ousted longtime GOP Passaic County Register Frank Sylvester in 1996, the Republican-controlled Legislature eliminated his job. They did it with the ultimate political cover: Passaic voters had passed a non-binding referendum urging the post be absorbed into the Office of the County Clerk (then held by Republican Ronnie Nochimson).

The Hudson County Register is Willie Flood, who is also a Jersey City Councilwoman.

Thigpen, a former Freeholder and fixture in local politics since the 1960’s, would be under no obligation to give up his chairmanship. Eight other County Chairs are elected officials.

But some Democrats say Thigpen might give up the party post. Phil Alagia, the Chief of Staff to Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo and the political director of Gov. Jon Corzine’s re-election campaign, is a potential candidate for Essex County Democratic Chairman.

Alagia says he supports Thigpen.

“There is no one in Essex County who can do a better job of moving the Essex County Democratic Party forward then Chairman Thigpen,” Alagia told It is my understanding that he will stay as chairman and he has my support 100 percent.

The Democratic nomination for Register in Essex is tantamount to election. The last time the race for Register was close was in 1979 when Hymen Mintz, an 81-year-old Republican who served one term in the Assembly in the 1950’s and was twice elected Register in the 1960’s, ran on a platform of eliminating the office. He came within 800 votes of defeating the incumbent, Larrie West Stalks, the sister of longtime Newark Democratic leader Calvin West.

Only two counties elect a Register of Deeds and Mortgages