NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Middlesex County residents may vote tomorrow, June 6, for a number of candidates in the state’s 2017 primary elections, including the little-known office of the surrogate.

In New Jersey, each county is home to a surrogate, who serves for a term of five years. The elected surrogate is responsible for probating wills, overseeing adoptions, selecting guardians to care for minors and more, according to Middlesex County.

The primary elections offer partisans the chance to choose their candidates in the November general election. Registered Democrats may vote tomorrow in their party’s primaries, and Republicans may do the same for their party.

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Unaffiliated voters may ask for a ballot from either party at their polling stations. By doing so, however, voters become registered with the party in whose primary they voted.

The primary elections for surrogate in Middlesex County is uncontested on both the Republican and Democratic ballots. That means only one person filed to run for the office in each party.

Even so, TAPinto New Brunswick sent questions to the county’s two surrogate candidates, incumbent Kevin Hoagland and challenger Karim Nicola, so that voters can better understand the men. Below are their responses, which may have been edited for grammar, style or brevity.

Kevin Hoagland, Middlesex County Democratic Organization, New Brunswick

Describe your background and why you are qualified for the office.

I have served as the Surrogate of the County of Middlesex for 25 years, which makes me very qualified to seek the position again. Prior to becoming surrogate, I worked in the human services arena, primarily dealing with the elderly. That gave me an understanding of what the needs of our seniors are. That was the impetus of creating 11 satellite offices so that we could meet with people close to home.

What do you consider the most important role of the Surrogate’s Office and how would you fulfill it?

The most important role of the Surrogate’s Office is to serve the more than 830,000 residents of Middlesex County in an effective and efficient manner, and to do that with compassion and understanding.

We also educate our clients, as the processes through which we are helping them are often unfamiliar. These include adoptions, guardianships and probate of wills, which are not routine procedures to most people. The Surrogate’s Office provides informational booklets, as well as a speaking program on wills and estates to help our residents understand the need for proper estate planning. This information is available on the county website.

One of the best ways to help our clients is to be accessible and to go where they are. We have expanded hours here in our New Brunswick office and have 11 satellite offices throughout the county. And with the support of the freeholder board, we have made our records accessible to the public online.

We also have made a concerted effort to raise awareness of adoption through our celebration of National Adoption Day each November. More than 100 families have been completed over the nine years we have held this program. The office processes, on average, an additional 200 adoptions a year.

Karim Nicola, Middlesex County Republican Organization, Old Bridge

Describe your background and why you are qualified for the office.

My Name is Karim Nicola, and I am a son of Egyptian immigrants who left a county in economic and political turmoil to provide a better opportunity for me and my brother.

I am a Rutgers University graduate in finance. I have learned all the concepts in finance from budgeting, forecasting, variance analysis, mergers, acquisitions, discounted cash flow, data discovery, reporting, data visualization and systems and application development. I would bring my financial acumen to create a cost-benefit analysis to dramatically expedite the probate will process through procedure guidelines and online resources to serve virtually all clients in our county.

Most notably, I can collaborate directly with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to lower taxes on estate, inheritance and state. This robust strategy can be extended to tackle all issues in the office from adoptions, minors' funds and administration of estates that lack wills.

What do you consider the most important role of the Surrogate’s Office and how would you fulfill it?

The most pressing issue in Middlesex County is the misuse of appropriations and corporate corruption. There has to be an investigation in all county elected candidates from the surrogate to the freeholders. They are publicly elected officials for a reason. There should not be the use of quid pro quo to leverage additional financial funds that get pocketed for these officials. There has to be a level of financial transparency and that starts through regulation by creating legislation to monitor all activities of all people in public office.

I would hold myself accountable to all the taxpayers in my county. I would answer all questions in council and freeholder meetings. I would be active in the community by being very involved in speeches, outreach programs and target all demographics. I would run the office like a business where every expense should be accounted for. Most importantly, I would uphold my promises that I made during the campaign process.