Faltering Froehlich Pushes Puschel

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Former Councilman Richard Koziol, Freeholder Christopher Hudak, Molly Lenz and Union County Police Lt. Richard Puschel appear in this photo from the county public information office. Puschel is challenging 36-year incumbent Sheriff Ralph Froehlich, who polls show is vulnerable because he is collecting an $85,000 pension on top of his $146,000 salary and an additional $5,000 health insurance stipend. The triple-dipping lawman came 1,369 votes away from losing his job in the 2010 Democratic primary and a recent survey shows up to 70 percent of party voters would select Puschel if it became clear that Froehlich would not win. PHOTO CREDIT: Jim Lowney

Former Linden Councilman Richard Koziol, Freeholder Christopher Hudak, Molly Lenz and Union County Police Lt. Richard Puschel appear in this photo from the county public information office. Puschel is challenging 36-year incumbent Sheriff Ralph Froehlich, who polls show is vulnerable because he is collecting an $85,000 pension on top of his $146,000 salary and an additional $5,000 health insurance stipend. The triple-dipping lawman came 1,369 votes away from losing his job in the 2010 Democratic primary and a recent survey shows up to 70 percent of party voters would select Puschel if it became clear that Froehlich would not win.
(PHOTO CREDIT: Jim Lowney)

UNION COUNTY — Support rapidly erodes for wounded 36-year incumbent Sheriff Ralph Froehlich when voters are informed that the 36-year incumbent is triple-dipping at taxpayer expense, according to a recent survey conducted by Devine Advertising Associates.

Two alternative Democratic candidates for county sheriff are Charles Mitchell, a sheriff’s officer in Essex County, and Union County Police Lt. Richard Puschel, a former Linden councilman who heads the Union County Police bomb squad.

While the incumbent starts out with nearly 50 percent support levels, only 7.1 percent would vote for Froehlich after hearing about the issues, while Mitchell would get 32.1 percent, Puschel moves into the lead with 35.7 percent and a quarter of those polled remained undecided.

The poll suggested that many Democrats believe 36 years is too long for anyone to hold an elected office, but almost 85 percent object to Froehlich collecting an $85,000 pension on top of his $146,000 salary and an additional $5,000 health insurance stipend.

When told that Froehlich has been sheriff since 1977 and some critics say 36 years in any elected office is just too long, 71 percent of likely voters say they they are much less likely to vote for him.

Most undecided voters and those who initially say they would support Froehlich — 87.5 percent and 85.7 percent respectively — agree that double dipping like Froehlich’s should be illegal.

Consequently, 57.1 percent of voters say they are much more likely to vote against Froehlich and 28.6 percent say they are somewhat more likely to vote against Froehlich when asked, “Does Froehlich’s greed make you want to vote against him?”

The poll showed 64.3 percent of voters are much more likely to vote against Froehlich because he “refused to fire Joe Cryan after the New York Post exposed his use of government computers to send emails soliciting kinky sex from an insurance company lobbyist while he was supposed to be working.”

His 36-year tenure makes 71.4% percent of those surveyed ‘much more likely’ to vote against Froehlich, with another 14.3 percent ‘somewhat more likely’ to vote against him.

Democratic strategist James J. Devine said the survey reveals that Froehlich is extremely vulnerable and if either Mitchell or Puschel mounts an aggressive campaign then Union County would likely elect a new sheriff.

Most voters who like Froehlich say they would vote for Puschel if it became clear that the incumbent would not be re-elected. No Republican has won a county wide election in 18 years, so the Democratic primary is tantamount to victory.

This is Mitchell’s third attempt at unseating Froehlich but he has no supervisory record and Puschel has the advantages of having both served in elected office and police command experience.

The average length of a completed survey was 278 seconds, or just under five minutes, and 349 voters who are likely to cast ballots in the June 4 Democratic primary were interviewed out of a sample of 6173 randomly selected households. Calls were conducted using IRV technology.


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