SOMERSET HILLS NJ - Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton won Somerset County while running up an historic 20,000 vote plurality over President-elect Donald Trump. The local Clinton tidal wave did not, however, carry Somerset County Democrats to victory. Democrats lost both countywide races anddid not make any inroads into the Republican base north of Route 22.
TRUMP'S HISTORIC LOSS
Despite the omnipresent Trump brand name, the President-elect lost Somerset County to Secretary Clinton by a margin of 85,689 to 65,505. Secretary Clinton followed in President Obama's footsteps by winning Somerset County. President Obama carried the county by a margins of 9,236 votes in 2008 and by 7,989 votes in 2012.
Democratic success in the last three presidential election cycles in Somerset County is buoyed by a surprising voter registration advantage in this Republican stronghold. According to statistics published by the New Jersey Division of Elections, registered Democrats outnumbered registered Republicans in Somerset County by nearly 11,000 as of November 4.
Secretary Clinton's 2016 margin included a Clinton victory in the Republican bastion of Bernards Township. She became the first Democrat to carry the town since Woodrow Wilson carried the town in 1912. On social media, local Democrats have touted the Bernards result as a success story.
The voter registration advantage and success at the top of the ticket has not translated into success in county elections. The GOP still holds a 5-0 lock on the Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders, and all three constitutional offices - County Clerk, County Sheriff and County Surrogate. The Democrats have not won a countywide election since 1979.
Coming into the 2016, the Somerset County Democrats had reasons to be optimistic. Their voter registration advantage has steadily grown over the past decade, and they have made local races close in presidential election years. The organization recruited two strong candidates. They nominated Maria Rodriguez for freeholder and retired Franklin Township Lieutenant Darren Russo for sheriff.
Rodriguez suddenly dropped out of the race in early September. The Democrats called on stalwart Doug Singleterry. Singleterry is a long-time borough councilman in North Plainfield with countywide name recognition from two previous runs for freeholder.
The third time was not a charm for Mr. Singleterry. He lost to Freeholder Director Patricia Walsh by a margin of 6,419 votes. Walsh won all but 3 of the 77 voting districts located entirely north of Route 22. North of Route 22, Singleterry managed to eke out wins in one district each in Watchung, North Plainfield and Bernards Township.
Supported by his base in Franklin Township, Russo came within 1,286 votes of knocking off incumbent Sheriff Frank Provenzano. Provenzano prevailed by less than one percent of the vote, 74,038 to 72,752.
SOMERSET HILLS LOCAL RACES
Somerset County Democrats prevailed in their strongholds of North Plainfield, Bound Brook and Franklin, and eked out wins in Manville, where the Republicans are split and in South Bound Brook. They did not, however, pick up any seats in the Somerset Hills.
Democrats did not field a candidate in Peapack-Gladstone or in Far Hills. In Peapack-Gladstone, Republicans Mark Corigliano and G.P. Caminiti won re-election in a lopsided victory over independent candidates Valerie Zoller-Melici and Andrew Sternick. In Far Hills, Republicans David Karner and David Surks won re-election.
The Bedminster Democrats did not initially field any candidates for Township Committee this year. Henry Brasch and Denise T. King were nominated after a write-in effort in the primary. King and Brasch fell to Republicans Staci Santucci and Douglas A. Stevinson in the general election. Santucci led the way with 2,727, followed by Stevinson at 2,581, King at 1,690 and Brasch at 1,624.
In Bernardsville, Democrats came the closest. Christine Zamarra almost knocked off Council President Chris Schmidt. Schmidt squeaked by the Democrat by a 26 vote margin. Republican Mike Sullivan led the way with 2,149 votes. Zamarra's running mate, Matthew Marino finished fourth with 1,728 votes.
When the four towns covered by TAPinto Somerset Hills re-organize in January, Republicans will retain unanimous control of all four.