TOMS RIVER — It’s not easy being a Democrat in Ocean County, where Republicans have not lost a countywide election since 1989.
Interest, the party keeps trying each November to convince voters that the time has come for change in the County Administration Building and at the Ocean County Courthouse in downtown Toms River.
This Tuesday, Commissioners Jack Kelly and Virginia E. Haines, as well as Sheriff Michael G. Matronardy, are all seeking reelection on the GOP ticket.
Their Democratic challenges are Roxanne Barnes and Catherine Paura for the Board of Commissioners, and Sal Frascino for sheriff. Each of the offices are for three-year terms.
The incumbents are running on a platform to maintain the status quo, which includes the preservation of more open space to regulate development, a stable county property tax rate and continued outspokenness — if largely symbolic — on a number of ideological differences with Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.
“There is still work to be done,” said Kelly, 71, of Eagleswood, who was first elected to the board in 1992 and as its director this year. “We have a good team in place and together we have done good things to help the people of Ocean County. I believe we still have the support of the voters to continue that work.”
Paura, 72, of Seaside Park, said she believed that balance was needed on the board. Paura is a retired market research consultant who now coaches people who are recovering from substance abuse.
“I am running to represent all citizens of Ocean County so that their voices become a part of our government,” Paura said. “I will be transparent, and want to incorporate the view of all residents into the policies impacting their home.”
Barnes, 63, of Berkeley, said that as a county commissioner, she would ensure that the tax dollars of county property owners were being utilized wisely, while promoting a better quality of life for all residents. Barnes is a local pastor who works as a substance abuse and anger management family counselor.
Haines, 76, of Toms River, has been on the board since 2016. As liaison to the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund Advisory Committee — which has protected more than 25,000 acres of open space since its inception in 1998 — Haines was a key figure in expanding the program to include the preservation of historical sites that voted approved in a 2019 referendum.
If reelected Tuesday, Haines has previously said that this will likely be her last term in office.
Matronardy, 70, of Toms River, is seeking a fourth term as the county’s sheriff. First elected in 2013, he has transformed the Sheriff’s Department into a countywide law enforcement agency that now routinely supplements the work of both the Prosecutor’s Office and local police departments.
If reelected, the sheriff has discussed his desire to expand the department’s work to include an emergency medical service and further modernize his agency’s equipment and resources.
Frascino, 63, of Lakewood, is a former Jersey City police officer and narcotics detective, who makes the case that a fresh perspective is needed in the Sheriff’s Office. Frascino also worked as a task force officer with the Drug Enforcement Administration and currently serves as a school resource officer.
“I have led a lifetime of service in law enforcement, and I believe as Ocean County sheriff that I can pull from my experiences in school safety, as a police officer and with the DEA to make our residents not just feel safer, but actually be safer,” Frascino said.
Contact Asbury Park Press reporter Erik Larsen at email@example.com.