This story is being republished under a special NJ News Commons content-sharing agreement related to COVID-19 coverage. Link to FULL story: newjerseyglobe.com/local/a-look-at-every-county-election-on-the-ballot-in-2022
While they may not have the same allure as top-of-the-ticket races, county-level offices are a critical backbone of governance in New Jersey—and there will be 61 of them on the ballot this year.
In two South Jersey counties, Cumberland and Gloucester, Republicans are seeking to wrest control of the county commission from Democrats. The GOP is also hoping to make a dent in Democratic governments in other counties around the state, from Burlington to Bergen. And while Democrats have little chance of making many gains this year, their performance in Republican-governed counties like Atlantic and Morris could portend future results.
Here’s a look at every single county election that’ll be on the ballot this November.
Top races include Cumberland
Commissioner (two seats): Darlene Barber (D-inc.), Priscilla Ocasio-Jimenez (D) vs. Douglas Albrecht (R-inc.), Victoria Groetsch-Lods (R)
Can Mike Testa remake Cumberland County in his image? With control of the county government up for grabs, 2022 presents an important test for Testa, the county GOP chairman and a rising star in the State Senate.
In 2021, with Testa and Republican gubernatorial nominee Jack Ciattarelli running up the score in Cumberland, Republicans flipped two commission seats and brought the Democratic majority down to just 4-3.
This year, one commissioner from each party is up for re-election, so Republicans would need another clean sweep to take control. Democratic Commissioner Darlene Barber and Republican Commissioner Douglas Albrecht are running alongside Priscilla Ocasio-Jimenez and Victoria Groetsch-Lods, respectively; both Ocasio-Jimenez and Groetch-Lods have waged unsuccessful campaigns for commission seats in the past.
In 2019, Barber and Albrecht managed to win alongside one another, and another split result is certainly a possibility. That would keep Democrats in control for the time being, but three Democratic-held seats are up in 2023, so Testa would get another crack at a majority before long.
In Gloucester County:
Commissioner (two seats): Frank DiMarco (D-inc.), Denice DiCarlo (D-inc.) vs. Adam Wingate (R), Stephen Pakradooni (R) / Clerk: James Hogan (D-inc.) vs. Tom Narolewski (R)
Bordering Cumberland County is South Jersey’s other big battlefield, Gloucester County, a swingy county that took a sharp turn right in 2021.
Gloucester is home to former Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford), who famously lost re-election in a huge upset last year. Less discussed was that Republicans, who haven’t controlled Gloucester since the 1980s, managed to flip the county sheriff’s office and two county commission seats, bringing the Democratic majority down to 5-2.
Two other commission seats are up this year, meaning that Republicans could eke out a majority if they manage to beat Commissioners Frank DiMarco—currently the commissioner director—and Denice DiCarlo, chosen earlier this year to replace Commissioner Dan Christy despite being rejected by voters for a commissioner seat in 2021. Republicans are running Adam Wingate and Stephen Pakradooni, the latter of whom ran for State Senate in 2021.
In the county clerk race, five-term Democratic incumbent James Hogan faces Tom Narolewski. Hogan is a Gloucester County stalwart, but so was Sweeney – and that wasn’t enough to save him.
There’s also been some chaos in Gloucester Democratic politics over the summer. State Sen. Fred Madden (D-Washington) quietly stepped down as Democratic chairman in June, and the new chairman, Chad Bruner, is still trying to defuse an unpleasant scandal involving a Democratic Mantua committeeman and a K9 dog who died in his care.
Democrats have a solid shot of holding their seats in Gloucester and Cumberland counties, especially if the political environment is relatively neutral (as it appears to be right now). But Republicans could very well sweep both counties, and if they do, that would set up a solid wall of Republican county governments throughout South Jersey, one more nail in the coffin of South Jersey Democratic dominance.