Burlington County Freeholder Forum

Last night, seven men and one woman appeared in a panel to discuss their candidacy for an open seat on the Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

On January 1, the winner of that seat, George Youngkin, was sworn in and he resigned the next day, due to allegations of misconduct. By state law, the County Democratic Committee fills the seat until an election can be held this November.

Against the wishes of several of us, the meeting was closed to the general public. County Chair Joe Andl expressed concern that any deleterious remarks could be used by the Republicans in the November election. Yet, it was Republican sleuthing that discovered Youngkin’s alleged transgressions after it was too late to remove him from the ballot. (The fact that he won is a testament to how out of touch his incumbent Republican opponents were.)

Each candidate was given ten minutes (including Q&A) to state his or her case, with informal one-on-one opportunities after the meeting was adjourned.

As an elected committee member, I’ll respect Chairman Andl’s decision to keep the responses private, although much of the discussion is documented on Facebook and one committee member surreptitiously recorded and posted the entire event. Based on what I heard and what’s been posted on Facebook, it seems that the election will come down to three people – Attorney Gina LaPlaca of Lumberton, Public Relations professional Kevin Sparkman of Medford, and retired locomotive engineer and union executive Dan O’Connell. O’Connell appears to be the favorite of the county leadership, while the rank and file committee members seem to be split between LaPlaca and Sparkman – both of whom have been campaigning hard for this position.

The election will take place on January 19, which is another bone of contention because it interferes with the Women’s Marches. Andl moved the first round of voting to 9:00 AM in order to accommodate this, but if no one receives 50%+1 of the vote (highly likely with such a large field), a second round to select from the top two vote-getters is scheduled for noon, which locks out those planning to attend the marches.

A shot of the audience – from Kevin Sparkman’s Facebook page.

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