Middlesex County Freeholder H. James “Jim” Polos said he contacted Sheriff Joe Spicuzzo last Wednesday and told him he would be challenging him at the March 16th Democratic Convention.
Today, Spicuzzo backed out of his tenth term reelection bid.
A former mayor of Highland Park who last year was reelected to a fifth term as freeholder, Polos finished his conversation with Spicuzzo and started working the phones, contacting bunches of Democratic Party elected officials and county committee people.
“With the news of the sexual harassment lawsuit, I have concerns about the tarnishing of the reputation of the department and believe the department needs new leadeership,” Polos told PolitickerNJ.com. “Numerous specialty services are not being provided to the municipalities.”
Since learning of Spiccuzo’s decision today not to pursue re-election after nearly 30 years in office, Polos said he had not spoken with fellow Freeholder Mildred Scott, whom sources say is likely to emerge as Spicuzzo’s establishment-backed successor.
But the freeholder rejected the notion that he can’t build support as a veteran elected official with 28 years in elected office at a time when Middlesex County Democrats are still trying to shake off the humiliation of Republican Chris Christie defeating their governor last November.
“I would say there are elements in the establishment who want thumbs-down control of the sheriff’s department,” Polos said. “It’s true, I’m a pretty independent elected official. But the bottom line is our responsibility is to do the right thing for the people. I‘ve been a Democrat all my life. I believe in the political process, and I believe in the vote of the committee people. They want to see and hear their candidates.”
Polos also disputed those who write him off by arguing that the county does not need yet another sheriff who lacks a law enforcement background.
“I was an EMS rescue squad captain and member of a police training commission which promulgates emergency management coordination,” he said. “I know incident command. I was the architect of schools and public safety initiatives and served on four task forces on school safety and emergency response. I have quite a varied background. Respect from law enforcement is important, and I already have the endorsement of the Middlesex/Somerset joint conference of PBA (Police Benevolent Association) leaders, which represent around 50 municipalities.”