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2019 Election: Franklin Democrats Win Big, Make History, At Local, County And State Levels

School Board Slate Led By Two Incumbents Wins

Somerset County Sheriff-elect Darrin Russo, center, gestures after his history making victory on Nov. 5.

Township Democrats won big in the Nov. 5 elections, sweeping the Mayoral and Township Council races, making history in the Somerset County Sheriff race and maintaining a seat in the state General Assembly.

Locally, Mayor Phil Kramer and his running mates for the Township Council’s At-Large seats – Kimberly Francois, Crystal Pruitt and Ram Anbarasan – posted big wins over their Republican challengers.

Retired Franklin Township Police Lt. Darrin Russo made history, becoming the first Democrat in 55 years to win the Somerset County Sheriff’s seat.

State Assemblyman Joe Danielsen retained his seat representing the 17th Legislative District, as did his running mate, Joseph Egan from New Brunswick.

The results

Unofficial results provided by the Township Clerk’s office show Kramer garnering 8,893 votes to the 3,203 cast for his challenger, Beverly Briggs-Lawson.

In the Township Council race, where two Democrats were incumbents, Crystal Pruitt led all candidates with 8,555 votes. Kimberly Francois garnered 8,438 votes and newcomer Ram Anbarasan received 8,182 votes.

On the Republican side, Christina Ganzer-Zambri received 3,309 votes, Sam Velu garnered 3,199 votes and Noah Fofanah received 3,187 votes.

Overall, 23 percent of the township’s 46,802 registered voters exercised their franchise on Nov. 5.

Russo, who unsuccessfully ran for the Sheriff’s seat three years ago, bested his Republican opponent, Bill Parenti, by a count of 36,372 votes to 33,798, according to figures provided by the Somerset County Clerk’s office.

Danielsen and Egan easily won re-election, receiving 20,108 and 20,272 votes, respectively. On the Republican side, Patricia Badovinac received 7,612 votes and Maria Conception Powell received 7,592 votes.

The celebrations

Township Democrats were jubilant during their post-election gathering at Twenty/20 on Cedar Grove Lane.

Speaking to the crowd of party faithful, Danielsen called the township Democrats the “shining jewel of this county.”

“Where Franklin goes, the county goes,” he said. “Where the county goes, the state goes. It starts with you, it starts here, it starts in Franklin with our Democrats.”

Kramer said the Council has much work to do in the coming year.

“There’s always issues, always things to conquer,” he said.

Among those issues, he said, are completing the youth center, securing a township-owned southern library branch, and taxes.

“Taxes are always a challenge, we’re going to keep those as tight as we can,” he sad. “We have a lot of ratables coming in, so there’s some downward pressure on taxes.”

Francois said she will use this term to bring construction of the youth center, her pet project, to a successful completion.

“I’m going to see that all the way through,” she said. “When I retire, I’m going to go over there and volunteer for the rest of the days of my life.”

“It’s been an honor and a privilege to be a part of the Franklin Township Democratic Party and to be a part of the leadership,” she said. “I don’t take victories for granted, I appreciate the fact that the voters came out, that we had great turnout and the fact that they believe in me and the Democrats and the leadership in Franklin to do what’s right on behalf of the taxpayers.”

Pruitt, who had been filling out the unexpired term of Freeholder Shanel Robinson, said she was happy to have been elected outright.

“I want to thank (the voters) for their faith in me, for their support,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the next few years, living up to it, not letting them down, really pushing the envelope on certain things and making Franklin even better than it is right now.”

Anbarasan said he had a few items on his “to-do” list.

“I have a lot of ideas, especially for the unemployed youth in the township,” he said. “I’m going to be looking at working with our business community, some employers, and help them meet some of the labor demands, especially at the entry level. That’s going to be my primary focus right now.”

Anbarasan said he would also look at technology to help increase the township’s “efficiencies.”

Danielsen thanked his supporters for his victory.

“For everyone who supported me, who helped campaign and who voted for me, I promise you from the heart I am at your service,” he said. “From the early childhood years, we’ve always had a sense of obligation to our family, our community, town, county, state and country, and of the whole world.”

“That is the cornerstone of what I do,” Danielsen said. “I may not do it perfectly all the time, but it is what I do. It is a way of life; completely alters the way you live.”

The Somerset County Democratic Committee gathered at Savour in Somerville, and was joined by Gov. Phil Murphy and his wife, Tammy Snyder Murphy.

Among the celebrants there was Russo, who said he was looking forward to starting his duties as Sheriff.


Posted by The Franklin Reporter & Advocate on Tuesday, November 5, 2019

“I’m ecstatic about the win, it’s a great victory for the county,” he said. “I want to thank all the volunteers and everybody who helped out going door-to-door, phone banking.”

Russo also thanked his “team,” as well as county Democratic chair Peg Schaffer and the unions which endorsed him.

“Look out Somerset County, we’re going to change things for the better and we’re going to work together with everybody,” he said.

Murphy, who attended a fundraiser for Russo at the Villagers earlier this year, said Russo’s win “is a big deal.”

“We got to know Darrin three or four years ago when he ran for the first time,” Murphy said. “He’s an outstanding candidate, he’s now going to be an outstanding sheriff.”

“The sheriff in any county is a big deal, you really set the tone in so many respects as it relates to law enforcement and inclusivity and all the good things he stands for,” the governor said. “It’s a constitutional office, it’s the second constitutional office we have in this county for Democrats. It’s a big night in Somerset County.”

Schaffer said the county organization was “excited” over Russo’s win.

“Darrin is going to be a great sheriff,” she said. “We have been working toward this goal for a long time. He should have been the sheriff a couple of years ago, and now we’re really excited about having him.”

Ron Jordan, the Franklin Democrats’ chairman, said he felt “energized” by the candidates’ showings.

“All the hard work that we put in for Darrin, all the work Darrin put in,” he said. “I feel excited and look forward to greater things. We put the right people in the positions and they work hard. I’m excited for the results for everybody today.”

School Board Race

In the Board of Education race, a slate led by two incumbents took the three available seats.

Board president Nancy LaCorte received 7,818 votes, board vice-president Ardaman Singh received 6,671 votes and newcomer Walter Jackson Jr. received 7,310 votes. A fourth candidate, Hugh Scott, received 2,850 votes.

“I am really happy to be re-elected with Ardaman Singh and welcome to our new team member Walter Jackson,” LaCorte said. “Let’s continue to work hard for the kids.”

“I am overwhelmed with humility and gratitude for being able to serve the students, staff and Franklin parent community for a second term,” Singh said. “I would also like to express my sincere appreciation for allowing me to continue to make a difference in the lives of our children one child at a time; support our teachers, administrators, custodians, security and all who have a role to nurture the growth of a child into adulthood.”

“I first want to give honor to God for He is truly the source of my strength and my smile,” Jackson said. “I want to thank the rest of the Jackson 5 crew for encouraging me to move forward with this process. Our connection can’t be touched! I also want to thank my other family and friends near and far who voted for me in spirit because those, ‘I wish I could vote for you’ votes meant the world. And last but definitely not least, I want to thank the best township that I have had the privilege of being a part of for 23 years. You absolutely positively rock!”

“And as your newly elected BOE member, I plan on rocking with you,” he said. “I’m ready to listen and learn and offer my time and talents to continue to help move Franklin forward by focusing on all the students, all the staff and the entire community. I can’t change the world by myself, but together our voice can make a difference! Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to serve.”

Here are some scenes from the evening:

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