AREA – For more than a decade, Democrats have held every seat on the freeholder boards in Union and Middlesex counties. Republicans are hoping to change the status quo in next week’s election.
Three seats on Union County’s nine-member freeholder board are at stake in this election, but Republicans are only fielding two candidates. Andy Smith, a lawyer from Summit, and Edwin O. Ortiz of Elizabeth, a manager for a security company, believe it’s time to bring new viewpoints to county government.
Smith has pledged to eliminate wasteful spending, such as the $1.5 to $2 million spend on the county’s MusicFest each year, and work to lower property taxes.
Ortiz is concerned with taxes and regulations that stifle job creation, but he is also interested in social issues, such as improving access to mental health services and finding ways of treating addiction rather than penalizing it.
The Republicans face two incumbent freeholders seeing re-election and a former educator seeking public office for the first time on the Democratic ticket. Angel Estrada of Elizabeth has spent nearly 12 years on the freeholder board. Christopher Hudak of Linden has been in office for about a year since replacing another member of the board. Vernell Wright of Union is a retired public school principal.
The Democratic slate points to their accomplishments, such as initiatives like the county’s two One-Stop Career Centers that are helping Union County residents re-enter the workforce. They also promote shared services agreements to help save taxpayer money.
There are two positions on Middlesex County’s seven-member freeholder board on this year’s ballot. Democratic Freeholders Carol Barrett and Charles Tomaro face Republicans John G. O’Sullivan and Avi Duvdevani.
Barrett, a former member of the South Brunswick Township Council, also had an active career in the organized labor movement where she served in leadership positions with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. She was first elected in 2009.Tomaro, a former Edison Township Council president, was appointed to the freeholder board earlier this year to fill the position left vacant when Mildred Scott stepped down to become the county’s sheriff.
O’Sullivan, a South Brunswick councilman, is the only Republican to be elected to the township’s legislative body in the past 10 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and works as an instructor at Mercer County Community College. Duvdevani, a South Amboy resident, is recently retired after nearly 40 years as an information technology executive for the City of New York.
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