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Democrats to Decide Governor, Freeholder Races in Primary

By Justin Bridge

and Paul J. Peyton

Specially Written for The Westfield Leader

Although there are no local races in this Tuesday’s Primary Election, registered Democrats and undeclared voters will decide the candidates who will represent the party this November in the races for Governor and the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

Three Democrats are fighting for their party’s nomination for governor in the primaries; Congressman Robert Andrews of Camden, Morris County Prosecutor Michael Murphy and State Senator and Woodbridge Mayor James E. McGreevey.

Congressman Andrews graduated summa cum laude from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, where he also was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He also received his law degree from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. After graduating from Cornell, he served as an attorney and as an adjunct professor at the Rutgers University School of Law. In addition, Mr. Andrews also served two terms as a Freeholder.

Congressman Andrews was first elected to the United States Congress in 1990, and is currently serving his fourth term. He serves on the Economic and Educational Opportunities Committee and the International Relations Committee.

Mr. Murphy, the stepson of former Governor Richard J. Hughes, graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration in 1971. He went on to graduate from Seton Hall School of Law in Newark in 1974.

The candidate worked as a public defender, had a private law practice, and was an Assistant Prosecutor for Morris County before Governor James J. Florio appointed him Morris County Prosecutor in 1990. His cases included the trial of the couple who kidnapped and murdered Exxon executive Sidney J. Reso.

He worked as a lawyer in private practice from 1995 through this past January, when he took leave to run for Governor.

Mr. McGreevey graduated from Columbia University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1978. From there, he went on to Georgetown University Law School where he received his degree in 1981. He also received his Master of Arts Degree from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1982. He served as the Assistant Prosecutor of Middlesex County from 1982 to 1983; Legislative Assistant to the State Assembly Speaker from 1983 to 1985, and as the Executive Director of the New Jersey Parole Board from 1985 to 1986.

He then served as the Public Affairs Manager for Merck & Company from 1987 to 1991 while also serving as State Assemblyman from 1990 to 1991. He was elected as the Mayor of Woodbridge in 1992. In addition to being Mayor, Mr. McGreevey has also served as a State Senator since 1994.

Incumbent Christine Todd Whitman, currently the 50th governor of New Jersey and the first woman ever to hold that office, is unopposed in her bid for the Republican Party’s nod. Mrs. Whitman graduated from Wheaton College in Massachusetts in 1968 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Government. After graduation, she worked for the United States Office of Economic Opportunity as well as the Republican National Committee.

In 1982, Mrs. Whitman was elected to the Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders. She was reelected to the board again in 1985. Over the five years she served as a Freeholder, Mrs. Whitman held the positions of Director and Deputy Director.

In 1988, then Governor Thomas H. Kean appointed her to serve as President of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU). In 1990, she resigned from the BPU to run for the United States Senate. She lost to incumbent Senator Bill Bradley by a small margin, gaining 49 percent of the vote.

After the loss, Mrs. Whitman kept herself busy by working for numerous committees throughout the state and local levels in addition to writing a newspaper column and hosting a radio show. She decided to run for governor against incumbent Governor Florio in 1993 and won.

At the Freeholder level, for the second consecutive year, slates of candidates are challenging those endorsed on the party line by the Regular Democratic Organization of Union County. The three candidates running on the line are Deborah Peer Scanlon of Union, former Rahway City Councilman and Union County Utilities Authority Commissioner Chester Holmes, and former Roselle Park Councilman Alexander Mirabella.

They will face slates from Elizabeth and Plainfield. The Elizabeth slate, running under the party name Stop Corruption and Profiteering in Government, includes Mary L. Varona, Paul P. Pickton, and James E. Garvin. The Plainfield candidates, who have chosen to run under the banner Democratic Progress, include Craig Montgomery, Bryan Askew and Marie Davis. The Democrats currently hold a 6-3 majority on the board with the three Republican seats up this year.

Running unopposed in the GOP Primary are incumbent Freeholders Edwin H. Force of Cranford, Henry W. Kurz of Roselle Park and Frank H. Lehr of Summit.

In the race for State Senate in the 22nd Legislative District, incumbent Republican Donald T. DiFrancesco of Scotch Plains is seeking reelection. He began his political career as an Assemblyman between 1976 and 1979. He was then elected to the New Jersey Senate in a special election and has since been reelected five times. He served as the Senate Minority Leader from 1982 to 1984. Senator DiFrancesco, who serves as Township Attorney for Scotch Plains will face Democrat Margaret Ault in November. The Leader was unable to reach her office in time for this story.

Republican Assemblyman Alan M. Augustine is a former Union County Freeholder, and also served as a member of the Scotch Plains Township Council and was named Mayor three times by his council colleagues. He was first elected to the Assembly in 1992 and has remained ever since. He serves as a member of the Appropriations Committee, is the Vice Chairman of the State Government Committee, and also is the Vice Chairman of the Financial Institutions Committee.

Republican Assemblyman Richard H. Bagger of Westfield also is running for reelection in the Assembly. Mr. Bagger has served on the Westfield Republican Committee since 1980. He also served on the Westfield Town Council from 1984 to 1990 as well as the Westfield Planning Board from 1987 to 1992. In 1991, Mr. Bagger was elected Mayor of Westfield. He resigned the following year upon his election to the Assembly.

Running against the two Republicans are Democrats Norman Albert and Andrew Baron. The Leader was unable to receive any biographical information on either candidate at this time.

In Westfield, the Democrats will try to wrestle away control of the nine-member governing body for the first time in the town’s history. The Republican slate includes newcomer Gregory S. McDermott in the First Ward, incumbent Second Ward Councilman Matthew P. Albano, Third Ward Councilman Neil F. Sullivan, Jr., and newcomer Christian A. Sepe in the Fourth Ward. They will run against Democrats Mark A. McCabe in the First Ward, Kenneth Rotter in the Third Ward, and incumbent Fourth Ward Councilman Donnell Carr.

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