NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–A strong turnout from Franklin's Democratic Committee sent their Chairman to the State Assembly, in a vote between two relatively unknown politicians today at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
Joseph Danielsen, a former Fire Commissioner and Planning Board member in Franklin Township, won a vote of the committee members who hail from his hometown, as well as those from New Brunswick, Milltown, Piscataway, and North Brunswick.
Party officials did not immediately share the results of the election with New Brunswick Today, but it was apparent that Danielsen won.
Danielsen will finish longtime Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula's unexpired term in the State Assembly, but his candidacy was not without opposition.
Just four days earlier, Jim Walsh, a New Brunswick resident who has worked in the state's nonprofit community, threw his hat into the ring for the seat, which has been vacant since Chivukula was tapped to serve on the state Board of Public Utilities.
Both candidates met for the first time at today's convention, finding they had more in common than not. Still, both were nervous in their first campaigns for state-level office, hoping to convince undecided committee members on their way into the Garden State Ballroom.
Both men made speeches, but Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Kevin McCabe asked New Brunswick Today to leave the room, saying the meeting was only open to elected Democratic Committee members.
But Somerset County Committee Chairwoman Peg Schaeffer said otherwise, adding that it was open to any Democrats who were interested, with the exception of members of the press.
But Bill Northgrave an attorney who was named Chairman of today's convention corrected Schaeffer, referring NBToday to McCabe aide Ben Feldman.
McCabe's aide first said that the meeting was only open to "committee members" but when presented with an example of non-members who were allowed in, he revised his statement to say the the meeting was open to "committee members and elected officials."
Each neighborhood in New Jersey elects one man and one woman to serve as committee members for each of the two major political parties.
Franklin Town Council members kept careful track of the number of committee members who came out to vote from their side of the Middlesex-Somerset County line. Supporters of Danielsen, including Fire Commissioners and other fixtures in Franklin politics, poured in throughout the afternoon.
Nearly 90% of Franklin Township's 78 committee members came out for the vote, while Middlesex County saw far less of its eligible members turn out.
By comparison, just 12 of New Brunswick's 56 committee members, or 21%, showed up to cast their votes. All told, only 60 Middlesex County committee persons turned out.
Under state law, Danielsen will soon be sworn in as the Assemblyman for the 17th District, where he will serve through 2015. Next year, it is likely he will run for re-election along with Chivukula's team of State Senator Bob Smith and Assemblyman Joe Egan.
The Assembly consists of 80 members, 2 from each of the state's 40 legislative districts. Assemblypersons earn an annual salary of $49,000 for the part-time job.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick.