Mercer County Democratic Chairman Rich McClellan Dies

(l-r) Democrats Andrew Koontz, Rich McClellan, Diane Gerofsky and Anthony Verrelli earlier this year.

Mercer County Democratic Committee Chairman Richard McClellan died unexpectedly Tuesday after a short illness. He was 61.

McClellan, a Hamilton resident, served as the Mercer County Democratic Chairman from 2002 to 2010. He was also the aide to former Hamilton Mayor Glen Gilmore. He then worked as the director of community affairs for the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission.

He became county chairman for the Mercer Democrats again this year after former chair Liz Muio became a state assemblywoman.

Friends and colleagues said they were aware that he was undergoing medical treatment recently, but added that there was no indication his condition was anything serious. McClellan seemed healthy and was in good spirits at the Oct. 7 meeting where Mercer Democrats endorsed Phil Murphy for governor, colleagues said. He was last seen at a public event yesterday.

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney issued a statement Tuesday afternoon calling McClellan’s death a tragic loss.

“Rich McClellan was a selfless and hard-working man who made enormous contributions to Mercer County, to the Democratic Party, to elected officials and to rank-and-file Democrats in the county and throughout the state,” Sweeney said. “He helped to make the Mercer County Democratic Party stronger, more active and more influential.”

Mercer County Freeholder and Princeton resident Andrew Koontz first worked with McClellan on Reed Gusciora’s state assembly campaign in 1995. Koontz said McClellan had excellent political instincts, a deep knowledge of Mercer County politics that is unmatched, and a commitment to integrity and an open political process.

“He was an excellent party leader and a smart political activist,” Koontz said. “For him, a Democratic party that worked had a very open process. He was extremely proud of that and rightfully so. The ordinary rank and file of the party had a voice under his leadership. There was an openness to the Mercer County Democratic party process that was the hallmark of Rich McClellan’s service and his enduring legacy.”

Koontz said the Democratic party became very successful in Mercer County under McClellan’s leadership.

“He also had a great sense of humor,” Koontz said. “I enjoyed working with him over the years and I will miss him profoundly.”