SOMERSET COUNTY DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES MARANO AND RUSSO LOOKING FORWARD TO LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS’ DEBATE

Democratic candidates announce they will accept any debate held by a non-partisan organization serving Somerset County, 8/16/2019 [Somerville, NJ] – Somerset County Democrats Melonie Marano and Darrin Russo announced today they accepted an invitation to the League of Women Voters' debate against their Republican opponents in Somerville on September 19th. “Debates are an American tradition, and I am excited to have the opportunity to discuss the issues facing our county in a public forum,” said Marano, candidate for Somerset County Freeholder.  “Darrin and I have the experience, qualifications and vision to make Somerset County work for everyone, and can’t wait to be on a stage with our opponents.” “I can’t think of a better way to highlight the differences between our campaigns than to stand in front of an audience answering their questions about the future of Somerset County,” said Russo, candidate for Somerset County Sheriff. “The voters deserve a chance to see Melonie and me in contrast to the opposing candidates, and we look forward to this and any other opportunity to present ourselves.” To date, the Republican candidates have not accepted the debate. Over the past three years, the Republicans have been unwilling to debate the Democrats in a public forum. “In the past I guess the Republicans felt they didn’t have to stand in front of the voters, but with the Democratic victories in the past two years, perhaps that will change,” said Peg Schaffer, Somerset County Democratic Chair. “In fact, we are willing to accept any non-partisan organization’s invitation to debate and hope the GOP will do so as well.” Organizations wishing to host a debate can send an invitation to Melonie Marano and Darrin Russo at somersetdemsed@gmail.com. The League of Women Voters of the Greater New Brunswick area has scheduled the debate for September 19, 2019 at 7 p.m. in the Somerville High School Auditorium. https://www.tapinto.net/towns/bridgewater-slash-raritan/sections/somerset-county-news/articles/franklin-township-russo-and-marano-accept-league-of-women-voters-debate-invite-4  

SOMERVILLE: A Walkable Urban Alternative

“The kids are coming out of the cities, and back to Mayberry. They want a walking town, they want some night life — but it doesn’t have to be constant — and they want safety.” Those elements were not a given for this borough of 12,000 residents in Somerset County a decade ago, when Main Street was dotted with empty storefronts and some residential neighborhoods were suffering from neglect. An effort by borough officials to resurrect the downtown, combined with a close working relationship with New Jersey Transit, which designated Somerville a “transit village” — one of 33 municipalities in the state included in an initiative to encourage smart growth and development around train stations — has resulted in a revitalization of the commercial center that has attracted developers and home buyers. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/14/realestate/somerville-nj-a-walkable-suburban-alternative.html Continue reading

A Former Somerset County Freeholder Spoke Out. What’s Wrong With Pat Walsh?

This is what is sounds like when a Somerset County Republican Freeholder speaks out against racism, in this case former Freeholder (and Governor) Christie Todd Whitman. “[T]hese particular tweets were not merely a racist dog whistle. They were a bugle. …“We are not a people who look away when our president spews hateful rhetoric and tries to divide our country along racial lines. And my party, the Republican Party, must return to our roots and champion our commitment to freedom for all.” – Published in the Star Ledger, July 21 2019 But all we’ve gotten from current Republican Freeholder – who pledged just two months ago to speak out whenever she experienced racism – is crickets regarding Donald Trump's recent racist tweets.

Freeholder Robinson Reads Declaration of Independence at Historic 125th Annual Independence Day Celebration

(Bridgewater, NJ) - Somerset County Freeholder Shanel Robinson (D) has been invited to perform the 125th reading of the Declaration of Independence at the historic annual Independence Day celebration. The event, free and open to the public, will start at 10:30 a.m. on the 4th of July. Run by the Washington Camp Ground Association, it will take place at the Middlebrook Camp Ground in Martinsville (Bridgewater) (GPS address: located at 1761 Middlebrook Rd, Bound Brook, NJ 08805). The public is asked to arrive by 10 a.m. while patriotic music is played. Bring your own lawn chairs or blankets. Parking is limited so carpool or walk if possible. “I am honored to have been chosen as the reader for the 125th event. The Declaration of Independence is one of the most important documents in the history of the United States. As Freeholder and an Air Force Veteran, I truly feel great pride in being part of such a historic tradition of local and national importance,” remarked Freeholder Robinson. The Declaration was an official act taken by all 13 American colonies in declaring independence from British rule. The celebration commemorates the encampment of the fledgling American Army in the area from May 28 to July 2, 1777 and again from December 1778 to June 1779. The Middlebrook Camp Ground, where George Washington's Troops camped, is also the location where the first official American flag, a 13-star flag designed by Francis Hopkinson, was flown in 1777 for the first time over troops. There is a special act of Congress which allows the flag to be flown at this site 24 hours a day without lighting.   Events happening at the annual celebration, aside from the traditional reading of the Declaration of Independence, include the lowering of the American flag, raising a new flag, singing the National Anthem and awarding the American Citizenship Award to outstanding 6th Graders from local schools. The park was established in 1894. Legend has it that the land was donated to the Washington Camp Ground Association by George LaMonte of Bound Brook, NJ on the condition that the Declaration of Independence is read every 4th of July, or the land would revert to the heirs of the LaMonte family who donated it. This has occurred for 124 consecutive years.      In 1907 more than 2,000 people marched in a parade from Bound Brook to the campground to celebrate Independence Day. What made that parade memorable was that it was the first reported parade in the United States that included a procession of automobiles.  For more information about this Celebration or to join the Camp Ground Association, please call Robert Fazen, President, Washington Camp Ground Assoc. at 732-735-1382, or email rpf1000@gmail.com What: Washington Camp Ground 125th Annual Independence Day Celebration Where: Middlebrook (Washington’s) Camp Ground 1761 Middlebrook Rd, Bound Brook, NJ (that is address but it is really in Martinsville (Bridgewater), NJ When: 10 a.m., July 4, 2019 (Bring lawn chairs or blankets & water. Parking is limited so carpool or walk if possible.) Contact: Bob Fazen, President, Washington Camp Ground Assoc. at 732-735-1382, or email rpf1000@gmail.com. Schedule: The annual ceremony includes (times are approximate (usually ends no later than 12pm): 10 AM Bring lawn chairs and listen to patriotic music (Parking is limited so carpool or walk there if possible) 10:30 Welcome remarks, changing of the flag and singing of the National Anthem 10:40 March to East Grove stage 10:45 Introduction of dignitaries 10:55 Reading of the Declaration of Independence by Somerset County Freeholder Shanel Robinson, Somerset County Freeholder 11:05 Keynote Speaker 11:15 An historical address then Presentation of Citizenship Awards to local 6th grade students 11:30 Benediction

Somerset County Freeholder Shanel Robinson to Read Declaration of Independence at Historic 125th Annual Independence Day Celebration in Martinsville

(Bridgewater, NJ) - Somerset County Freeholder Shanel Robinson (D) has been invited to perform the 125th reading of the Declaration of Independence at the historic annual Independence Day celebration. The event, free and open to the public, will start at 10:30 a.m. on the 4th of July. Run by the Washington Camp Ground Association, it will take place at the Middlebrook Camp Ground in Martinsville (Bridgewater) (GPS address: located at 1761 Middlebrook Rd, Bound Brook, NJ 08805). The public is asked to arrive by 10 a.m. while patriotic music is played. Bring your own lawn chairs or blankets. Parking is limited so carpool or walk if possible. “I am honored to have been chosen as the reader for the 125th event. The Declaration of Independence is one of the most important documents in the history of the United States. As Freeholder and an Air Force Veteran, I truly feel great pride in being part of such a historic tradition of local and national importance,” remarked Freeholder Robinson. The Declaration was an official act taken by all 13 American colonies in declaring independence from British rule. The celebration commemorates the encampment of the fledgling American Army in the area from May 28 to July 2, 1777 and again from December 1778 to June 1779. The Middlebrook Camp Ground, where George Washington's Troops camped, is also the location where the first official American flag, a 13-star flag designed by Francis Hopkinson, was flown in 1777 for the first time over troops. There is a special act of Congress which allows the flag to be flown at this site 24 hours a day without lighting.   Events happening at the annual celebration, aside from the traditional reading of the Declaration of Independence, include the lowering of the American flag, raising a new flag, singing the National Anthem and awarding the American Citizenship Award to outstanding 6th Graders from local schools. The park was established in 1894. Legend has it that the land was donated to the Washington Camp Ground Association by George LaMonte of Bound Brook, NJ on the condition that the Declaration of Independence is read every 4th of July, or the land would revert to the heirs of the LaMonte family who donated it. This has occurred for 124 consecutive years.      In 1907 more than 2,000 people marched in a parade from Bound Brook to the campground to celebrate Independence Day. What made that parade memorable was that it was the first reported parade in the United States that included a procession of automobiles. For more information about this Celebration or to join the Camp Ground Association, please call Robert Fazen, President, Washington Camp Ground Assoc. at 732-735-1382, or email rpf1000@gmail.com.

Meet The Candidate for Somerset County Sheriff, Darrin Russo

Franklin Township: Meet The Candidates - Darrin Russo, Somerset County Sheriff May 15, 2019 at 10:22 PM Darrin Russo, 54, is running for Democrats’ nominee for Somerset County Sheriff. Work/professional experience: I am a retired Lieutenant from the Franklin Twp. Police Department where I served for 30+ years. I organized and supervised the mobilization of large scale operations along with working in major crimes and special operations. I assisted the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, State Police, along with the joint terrorism task force on multiple robbery, narcotics, murder, gang activity and assault investigations. I was promoted to Lieutenant and in that capacity I supervised 16 Officers and 4 Sergeants, running day to day operations. I assisted the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office in several large-scale drug sweeps for distribution and possession. I served as Liaison to the Somerset County Narcotics Task Force and was a Somerset County Superior Court recognized court expert in narcotics. From 1996 to 2002 I served on the NJ State PBA Executive Board as Sergeant at Arms Trustee and Vice President. In 2007 I received the NJ State PBA Silver Valor Award and the Hamilton St. Business District Commendation. In 2009 I received the Marconi Foundation Public Servant of the Year award. In 2015 the Franklin Advocate named me Man of the Year. I was also a two time recipient of the Somerset County 200 Club Valor award. Why are you running for Sheriff? I’m running for Somerset County Sheriff because the current department leadership provides limited direct support to the people of Somerset County and is not an active resource to the families they serve. Most people in Somerset County don’t know who the Sheriff is.  As a street cop in Franklin, I know the value of officers being active and known in the communities they serve. During my time supervising plain clothes units and even in patrol, I always made it a point to reach out and be a part of the community, working with community leaders, schools, and business owners to clean up the neighborhoods.  When I was promoted to Lieutenant, I led my team of officers and sergeants to be visible and active in our neighborhoods, getting to know the people. I plan to implement programs to help improve our community that include protecting our schools and places of worship, forming a task force aimed at combating hate crimes, and overhauling our prisoner reentry programs to ensure that folks who leave jail don’t end up back inside. But first and foremost, I am running for sheriff to bring the department out from the office and into the lives of our community members. What area would you focus on immediately if (when) you are voted in? On day one I would immediately implement community policing rotations for our officers, getting them out of the office and into the communities where they can do the most good. At the same time, my focus will be on overhauling our prisoner reentry program. I have seen firsthand the damage done to individuals, families and communities when people re-entering society from jail are unable to resume productive lives and instead resort to crime to support themselves. When offered the proper resources, the majority of people reentering society from jail leave crime behind and can become productive citizens and taxpayers who contribute to our communities. When prisoners reenter society properly, it helps to build local economies and safe communities for everyone. That is why I will work with non-profit, county and state resources to ease reentry for residents who have served their sentences and have returned to their home communities. https://www.tapinto.net/towns/franklin-township/articles/franklin-township-meet-the-candidates-darrin-russo-somerset-county-sheriff

Middlesex-Somerset Counties AFL-CIO Labor Council Honors SCDC Chairwoman Peg Schaffer with Hubert H. Humphrey Friend of Labor Award

[New Brunswick, NJ] - The Middlesex and Somerset Counties AFL-CIO Labor Council met on Sunday at the Heldrich Hotel in New Brunswick for their 36th Annual Awards and Scholarship Brunch where they honored Somerset County Democratic Committee Chairwoman Peg Schaffer with the Hubert H. Humphrey Friend of Labor Award. Wayne Martiak, president of the central New Jersey labor group, presented Schaffer with the award, introducing her to the crowded room as someone who “has for years stood alongside labor, fighting for working families in Somerset County."   “Unions have served as the backbone of American society for generations, providing working families with livable wages, affordable healthcare, and protections in the workplace,” Chairwoman Schaffer stated. “In Somerset County, our two Freeholders have signed on to a pledge to support project labor agreements. Anyone elected in the county knows that we support labor unions and the labor movement and if they don't sign on to that pledge, they don't run in our county. The labor movement runs deep in my blood as my father was a union member, working as a tool and die maker. He worked two jobs and was able to raise our family, putting ten children through college. The labor union was truly a friend of ours. I'm proud of my dad and I dedicate this award to him.”   In addition to Schaffer, who was also recently appointed to Vice Chair of the Democratic State Party, other honorees included Hetty Rosenstein, who was presented with the Middlesex-Somerset CLC Labor Person of the Year award and Donald Nickle, who was presented with the Thomas V. Dooley Humanitarian Award.   Over 200 people were present on Sunday to celebrate the honorees. In attendance were numerous Somerset County elected officials and dignitaries including Somerset County Vice Chair Zenon Christodoulou, State Committeemen Joel Shain and Michael Goldberg, County Clerk Steve Peter, Freeholder Shanel Robinson, Freeholder Candidate Melonie Marano, Sheriff Candidate Darrin Russo, Senator Bob Smith, Assemblymen Joe Danielsen, Joe Egan, Andrew Zwicker and Roy Freiman, Assemblywoman Linda Carter, Bernards Committeewoman Joan Harris,  Bernardsville Committeeman Dr. Jeff Hammond, Bound Brook Councilman Vinnie Petti, Manville Councilman and Labor Caucus Chair Ron Skirkanish, Manville Council Candidate Roberta Walters, Franklin Councilman Carl Wright, Franklin Councilwoman Crystal Pruitt, Franklin Council Candidate Ram Anbarasan, Black Caucus Chair Tina Jalloh, Franklin Democratic Chairman Ron Jordan, Bernards Democratic Chairwoman Nancy D’Andrea, and Executive Director James Corti.

Excitement and Suspense at Last Night’s Somerset County Democratic Committee Nominating Convention   Marano and Russo Unanimously Selected, LD-21 Goes to An Open Primary

[Manville, NJ] - The Somerset County Democratic Committee met last night at their annual nominating convention to endorse candidates for NJ State Assembly, Somerset County Freeholder, and Somerset County Sheriff in the Primary to be held on June 4. The energy in the air was electric as members from all 21 municipalities and the various Democratic caucuses filled the Manville VFW hall up to the rafters to nominate one of the strongest tickets the Somerset Democrats have seen in years. For a moment, it would have been easy to mistake this year for a Presidential or Gubernatorial election year as the excitement and energy in the Hall was intoxicating.   The event began promptly at 6:45 PM with Congressman Tom Malinowski addressing his home county, praising the Democrats for their commanding victories up and down the ticket in 2018. Nominations of candidates and elected officials in Somerset’s six legislative districts followed. Assemblymen Joe Danielsen and Joseph Egan (D-17), Assemblywoman Linda Carter and Assemblyman Jim Kennedy (D-22), and Assemblymen Andrew Zwicker and Roy Freiman (LD-16) were all unanimously selected by the Convention to continue to represent their constituents in Trenton.   Candidates Lisa Bhimani and Darcy Draeger of LD-25 and Denise King of LD-23 were also unanimously selected to represent the Somerset Democrats on the ballot in the June primary.     The race for the 21st Legislative Assembly District had no shortage of intrigue or excitement. “The screening committee, which included county and local elected officials, state committee members, municipal chairs and chairs of our numerous caucuses, was unable to reach a consensus on whom to recommend to the convention,” stated Chairwoman Peg Schaffer. “Goutham Jois was the only candidate for whom a consensus was reached, but has since removed himself from the race. Because of this lack of agreement, and no clear choice by the delegates I have decided, unless there is strenuous objection by those eligible to vote on this nomination, to let the decision be made by the Democratic voters of the four towns in the 21st district at the polls on Election Day. We will have an open primary for LD-21.”   Candidates Stacey Gunderman, Lisa Mandelblatt, and Jill Lazare were each given the floor to speak to the Convention as to why they would be the strongest candidate to take on Minority Leader Jon Bramnick and Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz in November.   The climax of the night arrived when it came time to consider candidates for the highly anticipated Somerset County Freeholder and Sheriff’s races. Melonie Marano, who served as the Mayor of Green Brook and came within a few points of unseating Freeholder Pat Walsh in 2007, was unanimously chosen to represent the Somerset Democrats as their candidate for County Freeholder. Former Franklin Township Police Lieutenant Darrin Russo, who was backed by the party and came within one percentage point of unseating Sheriff Frank Pronvenzano in 2016, was met with equal enthusiasm as he was chosen to represent the Democrats as their candidate for County Sheriff. Despite rumors of a challenge, no other nominations were made for the County offices   “The name of the game in 2019 is experience,” stated the Chairwoman. “When members of the screening committee met in February to interview candidates for Freeholder and Sheriff, we knew we had the strongest candidates in Melonie and Darrin. Running a campaign is a brutal endeavor and their experiences on the campaign trail, having come close to winning in 2007 and 2016, will better prepare them for the fight that lies ahead. But more importantly, Melonie’s experience as Mayor of Green Brook and in business and Darrin’s leadership as Police Lieutenant in Franklin Township make them uniquely qualified to fulfill the duties of their offices and to better serve Somerset residents.   ###

Response to Freeholder Walsh's Divisive Statement on School Funding

Statement from Somerset County Democratic Committee Chairwoman Peg Schaffer “I was stunned to see Freeholder Pat Walsh’s statement on the Hillsborough school referendum that she opposes the state’s proposal to increase aid to Somerset County schools by eleven percent. School districts in twenty towns will see increases, including her home town of Green Brook, but Walsh chose to be negative and divisive instead of representing families throughout the county. Even more egregious was Walsh’s attack on immigrants, blaming without evidence these hardworking families for the referendum being voted down. Like Donald Trump, Walsh wants to hide her record of raising taxes while cutting services behind attacks on immigrants.”  

St. Patrick's Day Party

[SOMERVILLE, NJ] -- On Sunday, March 10th, following the Somerville St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Somerset County Democrats will be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day from 3 to 6 PM at Savor Restaurant in downtown Somerville. Included in the celebration will be Irish food, music, and karaoke.   “We always strive to make sure your voices are heard,” says SCDC Chairwoman Peg Schaffer. “But, at this event, we want to hear your voices singing Irish ballads as loudly as you can. We have a strong turnout each year and space is limited so make your reservations now. It’s a fantastic event for all who want to support some incredible Democrats and have a great time. We expect our local, county and state elected officials and this year’s candidates to join in the festivities.”   Tickets can be purchased online at: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/stpatsparty2019. For more information, please call James at (973) 919-1793.    

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