Verrelli takes Assembly seat to represent parts of Mercer and Hunterdon

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Democrat Anthony S. Verrelli took the oath of office over the weekend to become a state assemblyman who will represent a legislative district spanning parts of Mercer and Hunterdon counties.

Verrelli, who resigned his seat on the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders to assume the seat in the Legislature, was sworn in on Aug. 5 in Hamilton Township at the home of Assemblyman Daniel R. Benson (D-Mercer and Middlesex), the Assembly Democrats office said on Aug. 7.

Democratic Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, the other member of the Assembly from the 15th Legislative District, administered the oath to Verrelli.

Verrelli, the winner of an intra-party contest on July 26 to fill the seat of now Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora, could not be reached for comment on Aug. 7. In a news release from the Assembly Democrats, he said he is “honored and excited about the opportunity to continue my public service work as a member of the Legislature.”

Verrelli, of Hopewell Township, joins the Assembly, where Democrats hold a 54-26 advantage over Republicans.

Among Democrats in Mercer County, the focus has been on who will replace him on the seven-member freeholder board, where their party controls all the seats. Verrelli was elected a freeholder in 2016 so there is more than a year remaining on that three-year term.

Members of the Democratic county committee will meet on Sept. 5 to name someone to replace Verrelli and serve his unexpired term, party chairwoman and East Windsor Mayor Janice S. Mironov said by phone on Aug. 7. Party leaders have said there is no shortage of candidates interested in the seat.

“At this point, several people are exploring it,” Mironov said.

Among them are Ewing Councilwoman Jennifer Keyes-Maloney, and Kamal Khanna, a former West Windsor councilman, who has said he is a candidate for the seat.

Tennille McCoy, of Hamilton Township, has also jumped into the race. She is active in Democratic politics and has run unsuccessfully for the Township Council. She works for the state as an assistant commissioner for human capital strategies in the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

If McCoy gets the seat, she would be, at 39, the youngest member of the freeholder board and the third woman to serve. She would also be the second black member and the second representative from Hamilton.

“I think we have to look at it more as we will gain a woman who has the opportunity to partner with all municipalities in Mercer County,” McCoy said by phone on Aug. 8. “I will not sit as a freeholder and just look at Hamilton issues. I’m going to be a freeholder who is going to partner and have an understanding of Hopewell issues, Ewing Township’s issues, and partner together and make sure my strategic goals are aligned with their plans.”

She called it “imperative” for a woman of color to be placed on the board.

“Women are the nuts and bolts of every election,” she said. “I truly believe that, if elected as the next freeholder of Mercer County, I truly will be able to partner and have the opportunity to work with the other freeholders in making sure we align our goals with the goals of the municipalities.”

Democrats wanted Verrelli to time his resignation so that whoever replaces him would not have to stand for election in November. Three freeholder seats are up this fall, not four, which would have meant control of the board would have been up for grabs.

Mironov said there would not be a special election for Verrelli’s former seat.

“We did review the timelines for people taking the oath of office for these various offices,” Mironov said.