Running for re-election this year, Hunterdon County Freeholder Matt Holt won’t be teamed with his fellow incumbent Freeholder Ronald Sworen, according to GOP sources.
The veteran Holt instead plans to run with Raritan Township Mayor John King.
Sworen’s plans are unknown at this time in a volatile political environment with implications behind Hunterdon.
Holt’s decision to distance himself from Sworen hinges in part on the latter’s loss when he ran for re-election as mayor of Frenchtown, sources say. A grandfathered dual office holder, Sworen knew going into his 2011 municipal re-election bid that defeat could mean repercussions at the county level.
The Holt-King alliance materialized when Hunterdon County Freeholder William Mennen decided not to run for an LD 16 Assembly seat, which came after several weeks of backroom buzz and Mennen’s official declared candidacy.
The death of Assemblyman Peter J. Biondi made Mennen the favorite to replace the beloved Hillsborough politician. His biggest problem, however, was that he couldn’t run for the seat without moving into the newly configured 16th.
As Mennen mulled his options, King eyed Mennen’s freeholder seat, telling GOP sources he would be interested in making a run for a vacated position.
But Mennen finally wasn’t willing to move. He announced under pressure from anti-establishment Republicans insisting that he live in the district – that he wouldn’t relocate his family and run in LD 16 after all.
That left King a little in the lurch – until he and Holt began talking.
With Sworen’s local fiasco still fresh, King’s desire to be a freeholder meshed with Holt’s reluctance to run with a former dual office holder who was just made – by the voters – to give up one of his seats.
Holt made his decision against the backdrop of the developing LD 16 Assembly contest, where county committee choice Assemblywoman-designate Donna Simon must contend with upstart challenger Bill Spadea of Princeton in a June Republican Primary.
Much to the exasperation of establishment Republicans, Spadea is not running a lone wolf effort. He is building alliances to field as close to full-fledged tickets in each of the counties that touch the 16th: Somerset, Hunterdon, Mercer and Middlesex.
Spadea has allies in Hunterdon County. The bulk of his losing share of county committee votes, in fact, came out of Hunterdon – Simon’s – and Holt’s – backyard.
GOP sources in Hunterdon anticipate that as long as he is teamed with renegade CD 7 challenger David Larsen (who two years ago lost a primary to incumbent U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance), Spadea will field an alternative Hunterdon County ticket.
By grabbing the conservative King, Holt figures he can better blunt any chance Spadea has of pilfering a solid-sized brand name, sources say.
What Sworen will do – at least for the present – remains unknown.