NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - It appears New Brunswick may keep its representation on the Middlesex County freeholder board as Middlesex County Democrats on Monday picked a city government administrator to succeed retiring freeholder and former city councilwoman Blanquita Valenti.

Clary Azcona-Barber, a management specialist in Mayor James Cahill's office, won the Democratic Organization endorsement over another candidate, Joel Pabon, the Perth Amboy city council president and a former member of the city school board.

Born in the Dominican Republic, Azcona-Barber immigrated to the United States at age 19, enrolled in the English-as-a-second-language program at Middlesex County College and received an associate of arts degree in marketing from the college in 1997, according to her resume. 

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She became a Democratic committee member in 2000 and began working as a clerk for the city that same year. Azcona-Barber subsequently worked on the staff of Assemblyman Joseph Egan (D-Middlesex), then became executive assistant to the Deputy Secretary of State of New Jersey, and later joined the staff of then Gov. Jim McGreevy.

She served on several state boards, including the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority, and worked on several political campaigns, including one for former Gov. Jon Corzine, and Cahill's campaign for re-election last year along with council members Kevin Egan and Rebecca Escobar. Azcona-Barber currently serves on the city planning board and ethics board.

Last month, Valenti, who has served as freeholder since 2004, announced she would not seek re-election this fall. She was a city council member from 1990 through 2010.

Middlesex Democratic Chairman Kevin McCabe, in a statement issued after Democratic party convention at Middlesex County College on Monday, praised Valenti for "blazing a path for women," and lauded the selection of the nominee.

"I wholeheartedly believe that Clary Azcona-Barber will be a worthy successor to the strong legacy that Freeholder Valenti leaves behind," McCabe said.

Democratic committee members also endorsed incumbent freeholder Kenneth Armwood and Charles Kenny, along with Sheriff Mildred Scott, who are all up for re-election this year.

Democrats hold all seven seats on the county freeholder board, as well as sheriff, county clerk, and county surrogate offices.

Committee members also endorsed a slate of state Assembly candidates, including 14th District incumbents Wayne DeAngelo and Dan Benson, both of Hamilton; 16th District incumbents Andrew Zwicker of South Brunswick and Roy Frieman of Hillsborough; 17th District incumbents Joseph Egan of New Brunswick and Joseph Danielsen of Franklin Township; and 18th District incumbents Nancy Pinkin of East Brunswick and Robert Karabinchak of Edison.

The committee also endorsed 19th District incumbents Craig Coughlin of Woodbridge - the current Assembly speaker - and Yvonne Lopez of Perth Amboy; and 22nd District incumbents James Kennedy of Rahway and Linda Carter of Plainfield. In the 12th District, which includes Old Bridge in Middlesex County and heavily Republican areas of Monmouth and Burlington counties, the Democrats nominated David Lande of Millstone and Malini Guha of Matawan to challenge Republican incumbents Robert Clifton of Matawan and Ronald Dancer of Jackson.

The Middlesex County Republican Organization will hold a convention March 16 to nominate candidates.

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