Endorsed slates win South Jersey primary races

A sam­ple bal­lot with Re­pub­lic­an pres­i­den­tial candidates is posted in the Audu­bon Mu­nic­i­pal Building. TOM GRALISH / Staff
A sam­ple bal­lot with Re­pub­lic­an pres­i­den­tial candidates is posted in the Audu­bon Mu­nic­i­pal Building. TOM GRALISH / Staff
Posted: June 06, 2012

The endorsed slates of the local Democratic and Republican parties beat all of their challengers Tuesday in a handful of contested primaries for county offices in South Jersey, according to unofficial results. In a low-turnout primary that had no real contests at the top of either ticket, the local parties just had to get out their loyal supporters.

In Burlington County, where Republicans have controlled the Board of Freeholders for more than two decades, a pair of endorsed Democrats decisively defeated a slate that had run before.

Aimee Belgard, an Edgewater Park committeewoman, and Joanne B. Schwartz, a retired nursing home administrator from Southampton, won the nod to run for two seats on the five-member freeholder board in November. Mary Anne Reinhart, a former freeholder from Shamong who lost her reelection bid last year, lost again, with her two-time running mate, Machell Still-Pettis, an advocate for the homeless from Westampton.

"Joanne and I ran a very positive campaign ... we got out to events, met people, knocked on doors early on, and will continue that hard work until November," said Belgard, an attorney. "I feel good, but I still know there’s a lot of work ahead of us."

Schwartz was also upbeat. "I’m very excited and looking forward to having a lot of fun with this. ... We’re really energized," she said.

The two women will vie against Republican incumbents Bruce Garganio of Florence and Mary Ann O’Brien of Medford, who faced no challenge in the primary.

Reinhart, who was the sole Democrat on the freeholder board for most of her three-year term, could not be reached for comment.

In Camden County, where the Democrats have had control for two decades, there was no surprise in the party’s contested primary for three freeholder seats. The party-backed candidates prevailed over their lone challenger, Michael Leonetti of Collingswood. Incumbents Jeff Nash of Cherry Hill and Ian Leonard of Camden, with running mate Michelle Gentek, a Gloucester Township councilwoman, were the victors.

They will face off in November against Diana Escobar-Wachter and Eugene Lawrence, both of Gloucester Township, and Ian Gill of Mount Ephraim, Republicans who were unopposed.

Unlike the other two counties, Gloucester County had a contested Republican primary: Philip Dieser 3d, the endorsed candidate for county sheriff, who lives in Williamstown, beat Chris Marrero of Mantua. Incumbent Sheriff Carmel M. Morina, a Democrat, was unopposed.

County GOP Chairman William Fey said he was pleased that for the first time in his three years as the party leader there was no contested primary for a freeholder seat.

The party, which has made significant inroads in what used to be solid Democratic turf, has been splintered into two factions the last few years. "We’re moving in the right direction," he said. He also said that Dieser, a sheriff’s officer, was an ideal candidate.

Democrats in Gloucester County had a rare primary race for surrogate. The endorsed candidate, incumbent Helene Reed, a former freeholder from Williamstown, defeated Anthony S. Marsella, a former state assemblyman from Washington Township. Reed, who has held political offices for 23 years, including a stint as a Monroe Township councilwoman, said she campaigned on her experience. She said she had brought the surrogate court "up to snuff" and has made various improvements in her five years as surrogate.

"I’m very thankful for the opportunity to look forward to November with a great group of guys," she said, referring to her running mates for other county offices. "It’s always a team effort and this team is very, very good."

Reed will run against Carolyn Chapman, a Republican from West Deptford, who was not challenged in the primary.

Contact Jan Hefler at 856-779-3224 or jhefler@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @JanHefler. Read her blog at philly.com/BurlcoBuzz.

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