NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Three-term North Brunswick Councilwoman Shanti Narra is emerging as the likely Democratic front runner to fill a new vacancy on the Board of Chosen Freeholders, three well-placed party sources say.

“No one's got a lock on that seat – since it's up to the County Committee for a majority vote – but Shanti's star is definitely rising,” one of those sources said. Another contender might be Highland Park Councilwoman Elsie Foster-Dublin.

The Middlesex County Democratic Organization is set to vote on Oct. 18 at Middlesex County College in Edison.

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The vacancy on the seven-member freeholder board came Thursday when H. James Polos announced he is stepping down to become executive director of the Middlesex County Improvement Authority (MCIA), replacing Richard Pucci, who retired Jan. 1st from the autonomous agency that Pucci helped create and build.

Polos, 57, is a former Highland Park councilman, mayor and a freeholder since 1998. He has 26 months left on his current term after his 2015 re-election. Whoever is picked to replace Polos must also get voter approval in the 2017 general election, running along with Freeholders Charles Tomaro and Carol Barrett-Bellante.

Narra, 48, is a supervising criminal defense attorney with the Legal Aid Society in Manhattan, and she has served on the North Brunswick council since 2010. She was re-elected to her third, three-year term last fall, and was also named as the county Democratic Party's parliamentarian in 2015.

Before her first Council election, Narra was on the planning board for a year. Since, she has been the Council's liaison to the library’s board, the affordable housing and open space committees.

Foster-Dublin grabbed countywide attention last year when she challenged four other county Democrats for an 18th District Assembly vacancy the came about after Patrick Diegnan moved up to replace departing state Sen. Peter Barnes.

“It makes sense for Elsie (Foster-Dublin) – or maybe someone else from Highland Park – to try replacing Jim (Polos) as freeholder just because he's from Highland Park,” TAPinto's source said. “That's not really the way these things work, but Highland Park Dems might see it that way.” 

Foster-Dublin was first elected to the Highland Park council in 2000. She has since oversee nearly every borough department, served as Council President for eight years and as acting mayor. Foster-Dublin is president and CEO of Aunt Elsie’s Homestays, an International Student Housing organization.