Seven Democratic candidates seek two Mercer County commissioner seats

Seven county commissioner candidates are seeking party support at tomorrow’s Mercer County Democratic Convention, where one incumbent, Andrew Koontz, is not seeking re-election and another, Nina Melker, is running for a second term without any guarantee that she will be on the organizing line.

The vote comes a year after County Commissioner Ann Cannon, who had held the seat for 27 years, was voted out by Mercer Democrats in her bid for a 10th term.

In addition to Melker, the current Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, those seeking support for County Commissioner seats are:

* Elvin Montero, deputy executive director of the Chemical Council of New Jersey and director of the Capital City Redevelopment Corporation. An ally of Mayor Reed Gusciora, Montero ran for a seat on Trenton City Council in 2018 and finished 105 votes behind the winner of the third seat.

* Cathy Lewis, a Lawrence councillor, former mayor and party stalwart, worked as a political operative and held several positions in state government. She is currently a program manager at the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

* Robin Bridges Johnson, a former member of the Lawrence School Board, worked for Secretary of State Regena Thomas and for the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority and the Department of Transportation. She is now in the Banking and Insurance Department.

* John Durbin, former Democratic Princeton City Chairman and President of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization, who has the support of State Senator Andrew Zwicker and Princeton Mayor Mark Freda.

* Yan Mei Wang, a physicist and former West Windsor mayoral candidate who went to the second ballot of the 2021 Democratic convention as a candidate for county commissioner.

* Kevin Norris, teacher and progressive activist.

Melker, a Democrat from Hamilton, won a special election convention in 2018 to fill the vacancy created after Anthony Verrelli (D-Hopewell) was elected to the state Assembly. She defeated Lance Lopez, a correctional officer who had run PBA Local 105. Seven Democrats had sought the seat.

The contest revolves around a series of racial, geographic, political and gender issues in Mercer County.

Mercer is about 19% Hispanic and 12% Asian, but a Hispanic or Asian candidate has never held countywide office. Replacing Koontz with Lewis, Johnson or Wang would mean the majority of county commissioner seats would be filled by women.

While the current council has two black commissioners — the black population is about 21.5% — Johnson would become the first black woman to hold countywide office since current state Sen. Shirley Turner (D- Lawrence) left the Board of Freeholders in 1986.

A progressive group, Our Revolution Trenton/Mercer, endorsed Norris and Wang. Melker, Montero, Lewis, Johnson attended their nominee forum earlier this month.

Koontz is from Princeton and Durbin is trying to land a county commissioner seat for a municipality that produces big margins for Democratic candidates.

Hamilton, which has the largest county committee vote bloc, is strongly for Melker. But it is unclear whether they will back a second candidate in the first ballot in a bid to help their candidate avoid a runoff.

Lawrence Democrats have chosen not to endorse a candidate in a race that includes Lewis and Johnson. Last year, when outgoing six-term commissioner Pat Colavita, Jr., a former mayor of Lawrence, retired, Councilman Michael Powers attempted to jeep the seat to town. He was eliminated after the first round.

Melker is avoiding some of the pitfalls that cost Cannon his seat last year, working with Democratic groups ahead of the convention.

Republicans have not won countywide elections in Mercer since 2000 and currently do not hold partisan municipal office. The GOP will hold its convention tonight.

Eight Democrats first sought the Democratic organizing line for three county commissioner seats last year after the retirement of six-term incumbent Pat Colavita, Jr.

While incumbent Samuel Frisby easily won the March convention for another term, competition for the open seat led to the defeat of a nine-term incumbent who had not paid close attention to committee members. Democratic county.

Hopewell Township committee member and former mayor Kristin McLaughlin and political newcomer Terrance Stokes, an Ewing football coach, beat Ann Cannon, who first won in 1994, on the third ballot in party convention.