Election 2019: Mercer County races for freeholder and county executive

Mercer County Executive

Two Princeton residents are seeking the top job in Mercer County on Nov. 5. Incumbent Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes is running for a fifth four-year term, and is being challenged by newcomer Lishian “Lisa” Wu, a Republican who previously ran for Princeton Council.

Wu was born in Taiwan and moved to the United States to attend UCLA, and said she has raised three children as a single mother. During her council run last year, Wu advocated for lower property taxes and more government transparency, and was instrumental in persuading Princeton Council to reinstate “nutritionally balanced free meals” for senior citizens at the Princeton Senior Resource Center. She teaches Chinese as a second language as a volunteer. “I am committed to community involvement and ensuring that Mercer County remains affordable for all our residents, especially seniors and retirees who need a helping hand,” she said in a written statement.

Her action plan for county executive includes: Lowering property taxes by cutting the county budget through elimination of unnecessary operations and excessive personnel costs; ending county employee corruption; insisting on budget transparency and the justification of all expenditures; focusing on imporving the diminished quality of life for many Mercer County residents, especially senior citizens and veterans; and bringing leadership to the county executive office.  “The incumbent has been in office for 15 years.  It’s time for a change and a new approach to eliminating tax increases.” Wu said in a written statement.

She said the office of the county executive should be reviewed and possibly be eliminated altogether. “Its current responsibilities can easily be assumed by the freeholders as is the case in most New Jersey counties.  Significant tax savings would result,” she said.

Lisa Wu

Brian Hughes, son of former New Jersey governor Richard Hughes, has been the county executive since 2003 and previously served two terms as a Mercer County Freeholder. Hughes said he is eager and ready to take on a fifth term.

“I believe that my passion to serve and my ability to effectively administer county government will make Mercer County an even better place to live, work, and play,” he said.

Hughes cited a recent analysis by SmartAsset that says Mercer is the best county in New Jersey to live while saving for retirement. Hughes says it is in part due to the services delivered to residents, and his efforts to maintain fiscal stability in government. Hughes said he would like to build on the success of his past 16 years by continuing to preserve open space and improve parks, by bettering services for veterans, and updating voting machines with a paper trail.

Brian Hughes

Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders

Two candidates are running unopposed in the general election on Nov. 5 for two seats available on the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders. 

Incumbents Andrew Koontz and Nina Melker are seeking another term on the seven-member board. Both are Democrats. The board creates policy, approving county contracts and the annual county budget. Each freeholder is elected for a three-year, staggered term. 

Koontz, a Princeton resident and television broadcast teacher at Hightstown High School, is seeking his fourth term as a freeholder, and led the board as president in 2014.  Previously, he served his town on the Princeton Borough Council for seven years.  An avid cyclist, Koontz is proud to have helped Mercer County become the first county in New Jersey to adopt a “complete streets” policy that ensures all future roadway projects offer safe options for all users.  He plans to continue working towards the construction of a new state-of-the-art terminal at Trenton-Mercer Airport. “As always, I hope to provide our residents with the tremendous services Mercer County has while keeping the tax burden down,”said Koontz, who was one of two freeholders to vote against the county purchasing a $310,000 armored vehicle.

Andrew Koontz

Melker is serving her first term.  She was appointed to the board in September of 2018 and was elected last Novembert to fill a one-year unexpired term. She has worked in the banking industry for 39 years, and has served on numerous local boards and committees. “I wanted to take my business expertise and my community expertise and blend them now to become a public servant,” she said of her decision to become a freeholder. She hopes in her next term to work to make voting machines more secure with a paper trail. She said this is a costly endeavor, and it must be rolled out at the right time, both in the election cycle and for the budget.