Mercer County Democratic Committee endorses Assemblyman Dan Benson for county executive

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Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes plans to take his campaign to the voters in primary

State Assemblyman Daniel Benson (D-14) swept past incumbent Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes to win the Mercer County Democratic Committee’s endorsement to run for county executive at its March 5 convention.

Benson earned 384 votes and Hughes received 109 votes of the total 499 secret ballots cast by the delegates, or 78% to 22%. Six of the 499 ballots were deemed to be invalid and were not counted.

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Benson and Hughes were vying for the committee’s endorsement, which determines placement on the June 6 Democratic Party primary ballot. Hughes is seeking his sixth term as the Mercer County executive.

Hughes made it clear that despite the convention’s outcome, he will square off against Benson in the Democratic Party primary. Hughes and Benson filed nominating petitions to run for county’s top administrative post.

Hughes, who was elected in 2004, said this is the first time that he has been challenged by another Democrat in a party primary race. He previously served on the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders, now known as the Mercer County Board of County Commissioners.

During his final pitch to the Mercer County Democratic Committee delegates for their endorsement votes, Hughes said he is looking forward to four more years in office to complete some projects, such as the revamping of the Trenton-Mercer Airport.

He also touted $1 billion worth of grants that his office had brought to Mercer County.

“This is the leadership you expect from your (Mercer County) executive,” Hughes said.

Benson, during his pitch to committee delegates, said public service is his passion adding his door would always be open for Mercer County residents to offer input and new ideas.

“I am committed to working with elected officials with transparency and in a collaborative manner,” he said, noting officials and residents will know where he stands on the issues. “Sometimes, the status quo is riskier than change. We need to make a change for Mercer County, but I can’t do it myself. I am asking for your vote to bring leadership to Mercer County.”

After the vote were tallied and announced, Benson thanked his supporters.

“When we vote Democratic values, we win every single time. This turnout was amazing. I am humbled,” he said.

Benson thanked Hughes for the “spirited debates” they had in the runup to the Mercer County convention.

“That’s the way it should be – open, transparent and with a discussion of the issues,” he said.

Seeking reconciliation from Hughes, Benson said “it is time to come over to the other side. It is time to come together and to heal, so we can beat the Republicans in November.”

Hughes countered and said that “the way things are moving, we are taking our message to the people. This is an opportunity for the rank and file Democrats. Let the people decide (in the June primary).”

“A mere 384 party insiders voted for Benson. I believe that the more than 120,000 Democratic voters in this county should have a say in who their nominee for Mercer County Executive is, so I am taking my campaign to them,” he said.

Hughes said “our work is far from done.” He said he wants to finish what he has started – from job creation and economic development, to opening Mercer County to the world through the Trenton-Mercer Airport.

“We have much more to do, and we have every intention of getting it done. Make no mistake. I am fully committed to being successful in the primary and I am excited about finishing what I have started,” Hughes said.

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