Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes announces re-election bid

Brian Hughes
Brian Hughes

Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes announced on Monday at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 269 union headquarters in Lawrence that he will seek a fifth term next year.

The announcement was first emailed by Mark Matzen to Terry West. Matzen, the chairman of the Mercer County Community College Board of Trustees, is the president of FiftyOne Percent, a political consulting firm. West is a community development specialist for the county and is the second vice chairperson of the Mercer County Democratic Committee. Matzen accidentally sent a copy of the press release email to about two dozen reporters with the message: “Terry, can you send the attached press release out using the Brian4Mercer Gmail address to the following email addresses?”

According to the press release, Hughes told the union he would lead several key projects his next term, including the new terminal at Trenton-Mercer Airport, the Dam Site 21 and Moore’s Station Quarry Park developments, and the installation of electric vehicle chargers.  

“We know in politics and life that sometimes memories can be short so let me remind everyone,” Hughes said at the union event. “Twenty years ago, I took on the Republican political machine and won. Since my first election we have had stable, Democratic leadership in Mercer County, at the county level, and in local governments.” 

Hughes, a Princeton resident who has been the county executive since 2004, said Democrats have retained power every single year since he has been county executive. He then went on to say that good leadership means being able to work with officials from both political parties.

“I have worked cooperatively with all our elected officials, Democratic and Republican, to act in the best interest of Mercer County: to create jobs, build needed public improvements to our roads and facilities, to provide needed government services, to help our people and make Mercer County a place where we all want to live,” Hughes said.

Hughes said on his watch, the new criminal courthouse in Trenton was on time and under budget, and the project created 750 jobs during the economic downturn. He also said under his leadership, more than 5,700 acres of open space and farmland have been preserved. “In addition, our park system, which hosts more than 2 million visitors each year, features some of the most unique programs in the state – horseback riding, tennis, a nature center, pickleball, five golf courses, a marina, and the recently acquired Hopewell Valley Golf Club, of which I am particularly proud,” Hughes said.

He also praised the work of his administration, saying his team “has worked skillfully on the issues that matter to the people of Mercer County” – job creation, open space preservation, world-class parks, opportunities for young adults seeking careers and education, economic growth and development, and a commitment to continue to make Mercer County one of the most affordable and desirable places to live, work and raise a family.  

“Across this county, people I meet share their praise for the quality of life here in Mercer. Our roads are in great shape, we stay on top of bridge repairs, our snowplows are timely, we’ve got a park system that is second to none, our tax rate is steady, and our services are reliable. It’s a track record that I’m proud of and want to build upon,” Hughes said. “We have all soldiered through the most serious and personal crisis of our time – a global pandemic. I feel it has denied me two years to advance projects that have been on hold. But there are so many great things on the horizon for Mercer County. We are now past the depths of COVID, and with unemployment down and the business environment good; I want to see these through to fruition.”   

Hughes could face a challenger in the Democratic primary next June. According to the New Jersey Globe, Assemblyman Dan Benson and former Trenton Mayor Doug Palmer are considering a run for the top elected office in the county.

The announcement that Hughes is seeking a second term comes less than a week after the election-day ballot debacle. In Mercer County, ballot scanning machines across the entire county were unable to scan the paper ballots. According to Dominion Voting, the company that provides the scanners, the issue was the barcodes on the paper ballots. Ballots from three voting districts in Princeton and at least one in Robbinsville also could not be located until Thursday. In a press release on Saturday, Hughes distanced himself from the mess, saying his office has no control over the three offices that play a role in elections. He proposed that all three offices be merged and that a new executive director’s position is created to oversee them.

Hughes has also faced scrutiny for repeated minor auto accidents, including two crashes in 2017, and a 2020 incident in which he was found by a Pennsylvania state trooper walking along the Pennsylvania Turnpike appearing confused. He told the state trooper he was involved in a race with our others in Paris, France. In April 2021, Hughes said he would give up his county-issued car after the Trentonian newspaper reported on the incidents.