Despite initially saying he would forge his campaign ahead to the voters in the Democratic Party primary contest, Brian Hughes has decided to end his quest for a sixth term for Mercer County executive.
On March 5, the Mercer County Democratic Committee had endorsed Assemblyman Daniel Benson (D-14) for the top administrative post over Hughes.
Benson received 384 votes and Hughes got 109 votes of the total 499 secret ballots cast by delegates. Six of the ballots were invalid and not counted.
“It has become clear that the best path forward for Mercer Democrats is for me to step aside. I do not make this decision lightly, after more than 20 years in public office fighting for this county and for every last resident,” Hughes said in his announcement.
Hughes had stated at the convention it would be up to “rank and file Democrats” to decide on the nominee and “not 384 party insiders.”
Hughes’ decision to drop out clears the way for Benson to win the Democratic Party nomination to run for Mercer County executive in the primary.
“At a time when extremist MAGA Republicans threaten our democracy and our most sacred constitutional principles, the stakes of this race could not be higher,” Hughes said.
“To ensure our record of success continues in Mercer County, it’s time to unify for the good of the party. I believe Dan Benson has demonstrated his commitment to this county and our party,” Hughes said.
“He has my support in his campaign for Mercer County executive,” Hughes said.
Benson had already picked up the support of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization and Princeton Mayor Mark Freda and Princeton Council. He also gained the support of current and former elected officials and party leaders from all 12 municipalities in Mercer County, according to his campaign.
Six of the seven members of the Mercer County Board of County Commissioners endorsed Benson.
Benson received the endorsement of several labor unions. He also gained the endorsement of three Democratic state lawmakers in Legislative District 16 and state Sen. Linda Greenstein of Legislative District 14.
During his pitch to committee delegates on March 5, Benson 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 votes 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.
Looking back, Hughes said he was proud of his record of flipping Mercer County from a Republican-led county to one led by Democrats. Since he took office in 2004, “Republicans have not won a single countywide race,” he said.
“We pushed back Republican rule and turned Mercer County into a model for progressive leadership for the entire state. Together, we have made Mercer strong,” Hughes said.