UNION COUNTY — Although Joe Cryan has been serving as acting Union County Sheriff since Ralph Froehlich died in July, come Nov. 4 voters will decide whether the assemblyman or former FBI agent Michael Ince gets the votes needed to take over the top position.
Cryan is in the position to succeed Froehlich because he has strong Democratic support and he is well known for serving in the New Jersey General Assembly since 2002.
Cryan represents the 20th legislative district, which includes Elizabeth, Union, Hillside and Roselle and has a heavily Democratic voter turnout during elections. Helping to boost votes in his favor is the fact that Cryan is the Union Democratic Municipal chairman.
Cryan, 53, of Union, was an undersheriff until Froehlich died in July of cancer. Froehlich, 83, served an unprecedented 34 years and was just re-elected again in November 2013.
Although there were rumors that Cryan might not get the Democratic nomination and there were others being considered, in early September the party announced that the assemblyman was their top pick to run in November for the spot.
If Cryan does win Froehlich’s unexpired three-year term in November, he will have to resign as the 20th district assemblyman because the law no longer allows politicians to have more than one elected position.
The dark horse in this election could be Michael Ince, 58, of Garwood. A former FBI agent with 24-years of service under his belt, Ince believes the sheriff’s position should be filled by a professional, not a politician.
Union County Republican Chairman Glenn Mortimer announced the GOP’s choice in early September.
“The position of sheriff is far too important to be just another political position. It’s a dangerous world out there. For this reason our committee was determined to find the best qualified candidate for the job,” said Mortimer in a statement, pointing out that Ince also served as a Clark Police Officer after leaving the FBI.
Mortimer explained that Ince’s experience in homeland security matters and crime fighting was “stellar,” putting the Democratic Party on notice that they too should have a candidate that has equally solid law enforcement experience.
If Cryan does win the sheriff’s seat in November and has to give up his 20th district assembly seat, that sets up another political scenario – who will fill his shoes?
According to state law, Union County Democratic Committee members from the 20th district would get to select a temporary replacement to serve in Cryan’s role until the next general election.
Among the top candidates being discussed by political insiders include Union County Freeholder Mohamed Jalloh and Roselle Mayor Jamel Holley. Holley, though, in recent weeks has been named as the top contender for the spot.
Democratic county sources maintained party committee members from Elizabeth, Roselle and Hillside are behind Holley and if he wants the seat, it’s his.
Other sources also pointed out that Democrat Assemblyman Jerry Green, who is also the Union County Democratic Chairman, is behind Holley. The fact that Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage is behind Holley, several members of the Democrat inner circle said, is an indication that the Roselle mayor will get the nod.
Critical is that Elizabeth has the most committee member votes at around 140, while Union has 90, Roselle 39 and Hillside 26.
Political insiders, though, are backing Holley for Cryan’s replacement because they believe the assemblyman will win the Nov. 4 election for sheriff.
“Joe’s name is easily recognized on the ballot and voters are notorious for not pulling the lever for a name they don’t recognize,” said one Democrat committee member from Union.