Touting their Record, Democrats Seek Re-Election to Middlesex Freeholder Board


NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Two Democrats on the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders will try to fend off a challenge from within their party tomorrow, June 6, in the primary election.

Freeholder Director Charlie Tomaro and Freeholder Leslie Koppel, who was appointed to the board early this year to fill an unexpired term, hope to represent the Democrats in the November election. Two three-year terms on the county board will be up for grabs then.

Tomaro and Koppel are running on the Middlesex County Democratic Organization’s ticket. They’re up against a pair of Bernie Sanders-inspired hopefuls from the Central Jersey Progressive Democrats.

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Freeholder Shanti Narra, meanwhile, is running unopposed to fill one year of an unexpired term on behalf of the Middlesex County Democratic Organization in the primaries. But she will face a Republican challenger in the fall.

Legislators on the county freeholder board develop policies, vote on ordinances and resolutions and work with administrators to enact their agendas, representing residents of the 25 municipalities in Middlesex.

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.

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.

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. For information on where to vote, click here.

TAPinto New Brunswick sent questions to each freeholder candidate in the run-up to the primary elections. Below are responses from the Middlesex County Democratic Organization candidates. They may have been edited for grammar, style or brevity.

Charlie Tomaro, Edison

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

My experience on the Freeholder Board, on the Edison Township Council and as a local businessman puts me in the unique position of seeing where opportunity lies and the strengths Middlesex County has to offer. This knowledge especially helps me fulfill my current duties as deputy director of the board and chair of the administration committee, which helps set the roadmap for the county’s internal operations and outreach to our municipal and private partners.

What do you consider the most pressing issue facing Middlesex County and how would you address it?

We must continuously invest in our infrastructure and build a robust economic development plan to ensure that residents receive the quality services they need, that we attract visitors to boost our tourism sector and that we retain and attract businesses to ensure that good, high-paying jobs and opportunities are available to our residents.

What else do you hope to accomplish if you are elected?

The Board of Freeholders is committed to boosting our local economy and the economies of our 25 municipalities so that we may provide the best place for people to live, to work or to visit. We do this by investing in our roads, parks, arts, culture, technology and secondary schools. I would prioritize continued investment in our Capital Improvement Master Plan, which encompasses all these areas, and building even stronger partnerships with our municipalities to share services where we can, like we do now with emergency communications, digital tax mapping and open space purchases.

Leslie Koppel, Monroe

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

My tenure as chair of the county’s finance committee, my years as a councilwoman in Monroe Township and my background in nonprofit and business management have given me the tools to assess our overall budget, while being able to pinpoint where efficiencies can be made.

What do you consider the most pressing issue facing Middlesex County and how would you address it?

Middlesex County has held a Triple A Bond rating for the past 16 years. We received word recently that this excellent rating was reaffirmed. Maintaining this rating speaks to our financial strength, which in turn helps us offer a wide array of quality services and gives us the ability to keep down the cost of running county government. We must build on the strong foundation we laid in order to offset cuts in federal and state grant funding to critical programs, such as mental health care, transportation and education.

What else do you hope to accomplish if you are elected?

We must assess every expense, continue to infuse technology into our daily operations to promote efficiency and identify sustainable revenue sources to offset continued federal and state cuts to critical programs.

Shanti Narra, North Brunswick

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

Through my professional and volunteer lives, and my time on the North Brunswick Council, I have built a skill set that more than prepares me to work to protect the well-being of Middlesex County’s residents and helps me make the decisions necessary to do so. I am a supervisor in the Criminal Defense Division with the Legal Aid Society of New York, and am an active member of the North Brunswick Township Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and trained in search and rescue, fire safety and disaster medical operations.

What do you consider the most pressing issue facing Middlesex County and how would you address it?

The safety of our residents must always be a priority. This becomes increasingly challenging as federal laws change and federal and state funding drops off. We must continue to work with our municipal partners, our law enforcement professionals and our healthcare providers, and increase our volunteer ranks to ensure we are prepared to effectively prevent and respond emergencies of all types in the county.

What else do you hope to accomplish if you are elected?

Because our population continues to grow and our federal and state funding for programs of all kinds continues to decrease, we must collaborate with our municipal partners, our neighboring counties and the other members of the UASI (Urban Area Security Initiative) group to work cohesively to protect our residents. Building and maintaining strong partnerships increases our ability as a whole to safeguard the county. I would prioritize working even more closely with all these groups through inter-local and shared-services agreements, such as our state-of-the-art emergency radio system, our agreements for medical examiner services, public health services and fire inspection services. These allow us to provide excellent services at lower costs.

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