SOMERSET COUNTY, NJ – Somerset County Democrats are ready to charge up the hill one more time.  2016 is an election cycle that might favor the Democrats in Somerset County.  This year, the race for president is at the top of the ballot.  President Obama won Somerset County in 2008 and 2012, and his coattails were almost big enough to bring some Somerset County Democrats into the winner's circle.  That being said, it has been over a quarter century since a member of the Democratic Party has won county office in Somerset County.

Following last week’s Nominating Convention, which Executive Director Jon Evans describes as "energetic" - the Somerset County Democratic Committee announced the filing of nominating petitions for their endorsed County Candidates for Sheriff and Freeholder.

Darrin Russo, a resident of Franklin Township and Lieutenant in the Franklin Police Department will be seeking the office of Somerset County Sheriff.  Lieutenant Russo received the 2015 Franklin Township Man of the Year Award from the Franklin Township Council and Franklin Reporter & Advocate. He is currently the President of the Supervisory Officers Association, PBA local 154 and serves on the Franklin Township Parks & Recreation Committee.  

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Maria Rodriguez, a Therapist and Professor from Bridgewater, will be the Party’s nominee for the Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders.  Dr. Rodriguez’ professional affiliations include the New Jersey Psychological Association, National Women’s Studies Association and Latinos Psychological Association of New Jersey.  Dr. Rodriguez is a founding Member of Future Knowledge Center for Women, Inc., an adjunct professor at William Paterson University and maintains a private practice in Bridgewater.

Both Lieutenant Russo and Dr. Rodriguez accepted their Party’s unanimous nomination last week in front of hundreds of Somerset County Committee Members and Elected Officials. Somerset County Chairwoman Peg Schaffer thanked the screening committee and the assembled delegates. “The quality of these candidates is a result of the tireless efforts of Somerset County Democrats who are determined to put a Democrat in County Government for the first time in three decades,” said Schaffer. “The endorsed ticket includes Hillary Clinton for President, Bonnie Watson Coleman and Chris Faraone for Congress, a team we expect will lead us to this long sought victory.”

Before Russo and Rodriguez get to the general election to face Sheriff Frank Provenzano and Freeholder Pat Walsh, they will have to win the June 7 Democratic Primary.  Rodriguez will square off against Lisa Kazmier of Manville for the party's nomination for freeholder.  Russo will face Alexander Clark of Somerset for the party's nomination for sheriff.  Kazmier and Clark filed nominating petitions, and have requested to be bracketed with presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.  Neither Clark nor Kazmier sought the endorsement of the Somerset County Democratic Committee.

The primary election will be held on June 7.