Donna Pearson Second in Cumberland Freeholder Race, as Jack Surrency Questions Unofficial Results

By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media

BRIDGETON – Donna Pearson, who is already in the history books as Cumberland County’s first Black freeholder director, will have a shot at returning to the board after an impressive unofficial second in the county’s Democratic Party primary for three open seats.

But her team, lead by freeholder incumbent Jack Surrency, has filed 14 open records request about the election process that remains unresolved. That can still have an impact in a razor-thin election that saw Pearson beat out fourth-place Bruce Cooper.

Surrency’s open records requests demands a wide inquiry from how contested ballots were eliminated, total number of votes casts, to voting machines that were used, to name a few.

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“Our campaign has been advised by counsel that the contents of our OPRA requests should be readily available to your custodian,” Surrency said in a filing Tuesday to Lizbeth Hernandez, administrator with the Cumberland County Board of Elections. “Therefore, our OPRA request should be responded to and filled immediately. Please let us know when our 14 OPRA requests will be filled.”

The controversy has been months in the making when the Cumberland County Democratic Party officials dumped Surrency off its re-election ticket in favor of Cooper, the lone African-American on the Millville City Committee. Surrency claimed the party made the vote because he considered at one time entering the New Jersey Congressional District 2 race against party-endorsed Brigid Callahan Harrison.

Surrency fought back by forming his own ticket with African-Americans Pearson and Tracey Wells-Huggins, go against Cooper and incumbents Carol Musso and George Castellini.

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Charges and counter-charges between Surrency and many of his fellow Cumberland County freeholder and Democratic Party officials ensued over the months to come.

The dust from the flair-ups started to settle with the July 7 Democratic primary, with Musso leading all voter with 20.07 percent of the tallies (7,027), according to updated totals from the Cumberland County Board of Elections website Tuesday night.

Pearson was second with 5,942 votes (16.97 percent). Castellini was third with 5,895 votes (16.84 percent) and Cooper fourth with 5,754 votes (16.43 percent.

If that holds, Musso, Pearson and Castellini will be pitted in the November general election against the Republican ticket of Victoria Lods, Antonio Romero and Darwin Cooper Jr., who all ran unopposed.

Wells-Huggins came in fifth in the Democratic primary with 5,330 votes (15.22 percent) and Surrency sixth with 4,950 votes (14.14 percent). Surrency and Pearson are both former Bridgeton city council members and veterans of the Cumberland County political scene.

Pearson was first elected to the Cumberland County Freeholder Board in 1997, and in 2003 became its first Black freeholder director.

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