Russo Wins Democratic Primary For Somerset County Sheriff Race

June 7 2016 Primary - 2

Democratic Somerset County Sheriff candidate Darrin Russo awaits primary results with his wife, Denise, in the Township Council chamber on June 7.

A township police lieutenant will carry the Democrat’s banner in November’s race for Somerset County Sheriff.

Darrin Russo handily won his primary June 7 against Alexander E. Clark, a township resident running on the Bernie Sanders ticket.

Russo, a 30-year police department veteran who will retire in July, garnered 17,887 votes to Clark’s 10,525.

Russo will face Republican incumbent Sheriff Frank Provenzano in the November election. Provenzano did not face a primary challenge.

This is Russo’s first foray into politics. He said he was “thrilled” with the reaction he received from people he’s met so far on the campaign trail.

“I’m glad for the support,” he said.

Russo said he’s received “very good, positive reactions” to his candidacy.

He said he will step up his campaigning later in the summer, when he is retired.

The primary challenge came as a surprise, Russo said.

“I didn’t think this was happening, but it did, and everyone said that’s a positive thing,” Russo said. “It worked out.”

Clark has said in published reports that he had no interest in the Sheriff’s position and that the only reason he ran was to help Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders gain a preferential position on the primary ballot. Sanders was given the “A” line, while his opponent, Hilary Clinton, was given the “B” line. They were the only two Democratic candidates in the presidential primary.

The purported better line position didn’t help Sanders in Somerset County. Clinton won handily, garnering about 62 percent of the vote to Sanders’ 38 percent.

Russo carried Franklin Township, winning 5,561 votes to Clark’s 2,260. More than 54 percent of the township’s registered Democrats turned out for their primary, while about 40 percent of Franklin’s registered Republicans voted in theirs.

The local Democratic ticket will be rounded out with Township Councilman Charles Onyejiaka running for the unexpired Ward 3 seat of Mayor Phil Kramer. That term expires in 2017. Onyejiaka did not face a primary challenge.

Onyejiaka, who was appointed in January to fill seat during this year, will be challenged by Republican Robert Mettler.

Also on the Democratic ticket in November will be U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12), who will be challenged by Republican Steven J. Uccio, and Maria Rodriguez, who will challenge incumbent Republican Somerset County Freeholder Pat Walsh for the seat she now holds.

Coleman easily overcame a primary challenge launched by former Township Councilman Alex Kucsma with a vote tally in the township of 6,923 to Kuscma’s 461.

Franklin also went for Clinton over Sanders, with the former First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State receiving 6,057 votes to the Vermont Senator’s 2,669.

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, received 1,531 votes in the township.

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