CENTRAL JERSEY: County Executive Brian Hughes eager to attend Democrat convention

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Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes.

By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
In 1992, Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes was a candidate for Congress when he went to the Democratic National Convention in New York to nominate Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton for president.
In reflecting on how things shaped out, Mr. Hughes recalled with a touch of humor that it was a “good year for Clinton” and a “bad year for Hughes” as the two men had different outcomes to their races.
Now, 24 years later, Mr. Hughes will be in Philadelphia next week for the Democratic Convention as a delegate, again nominating a Clinton for president, but this time former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
In a 20-minute phone interview Wednesday, Mr. Hughes reflected on his experiences attending Democratic conventions through the years and his thoughts on the current race for president pitting Ms. Clinton against Republican Donald Trump. He said he is eager to see the campaign get started, and feels the differences between the two candidates are going to be “so stark” in a contest that he thinks she will win.
As a son of former New Jersey Gov. Richard Hughes, he grew up around politics the way the son of professional athlete might grow up around the locker room or the batting cage.
When he was 6, his father took him to the 1964 convention in Atlantic City. He remembers little about the occasion, although he recalled meeting President Lyndon Johnson, “a big, imposing kind of guy,” in Mr. Hughes’ words.
Four years later, he was in Chicago — amid the turmoil swirling about the country mired in the Vietnam War.
There were other conventions he attended; next week will be either his fourth or fifth time as a delegate, by his counting. In 2008, his wife, Pam, filled that role, and he went with her and their son, Sullivan, to Denver. He recalled being in the convention facility with his son, when an instantly recognizable figure was walking with a slight limp down the hall.
It was Muhammad Ali.
“There was no doubt who this guy was,” he said.
With the convention so close to home, he does not have to sleep overnight in a hotel, so he said he plans to make day trips back and forth. But with the focus on the presidential contest, there is another race roughly a year away that will compete for the attention of the New Jersey delegation next week.
Each of the three Democrat gubernatorial hopefuls — state Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney (D-3), Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and Phil Murphy — are sponsoring breakfasts that Mr. Hughes plans to attend.
Yet there is a part of Mr. Hughes eager to see the contest between Ms. Clinton and Mr. Trump finally begin.
“It seems like we’ve been having primaries, straw polls and caucuses for three years,” he said. “It’s been a long, long campaign so far. And now we get down to the meat and potatoes.”
When Ms. Clinton gives her acceptance speech next week, he said she should address education, the economy, public safety and a plan to combat terrorism. When asked who her vice presidential running mate should be, he deadpanned: “Brian Hughes.”
“This,” Mr. Hughes said, “is going to be an exciting convention.”