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It’s never easy running the first time for office. It’s even harder when you’re seeking an office many people don’t know even exists.
That’s the challenge for Michael Thompson, a Democrat running for Morris County Surrogate, a seat opening up with the retirement at the end of this year of Republican John Pecoraro, who has held the job for 25 years.
Surrogates, like sheriffs and county clerks, are constitutional offices, meaning their jobs were created by the state constitution.
That was a pretty long time ago, but the perhaps archaic practice of electing these folks remains. The job duties of sheriffs and clerks are at least fairly easy to grasp.
The chores of surrogates – overseeing the probating of wills and handling trust funds for those incapable of doing so – are important, but hardly sexy, or widely understood.
Thompson, who lives in Mendham Township and who practices law in East Hanover, says he knows all about the job and its function.
“You want a surrogate who knows what he’s doing,” Thompson said in a recent interview.
That’s him, he says, noting that he has spent more than 20 years as a trusts and estates attorney. That has given him the confidence to say he’ll be good at the job.
Being “good” at the job, of course, is not good enough.
You have to be elected and Republicans, their problems notwithstanding, still are the majority party in Morris County.
The likely GOP candidate is Michael Patrick Carroll, who plans to give up his District 25 Assembly seat to run for surrogate. Carroll’s at times out of the mainstream views don’t really mesh with a low-key job overseeing wills.
But he is well-known in the county.
“I need to convince Republicans and unaffiliated why I am the best candidate for the job,” Thompson says. “I think people will come over.”
Thompson says Morris is not as rock-solid Republican as it once was.
“I think Mikie Sherrill has shown us people in Morris County are not going to reflexively vote the Republican line,” he said.
Sherrill did indeed win Morris County by a comfortable margin in her 11th District congressional race last fall. But that was Congress; this is county surrogate. There really is no comparison between the two in terms of voter awareness and interest.
As sleepy as a campaign for surrogate appears to be, some may recall that things were anything but sleepy 25 years ago when Pecoraro was first elected. To win, he had to beat Olga Abramides, an employee in the surrogate’s office, in a bruising primary.
Bruising? For surrogate?
Well, yes. At one point in the campaign, the Abramides camp portrayed Pecoraro as a rodent trying to gnaw his way to the top. However the likely Carroll-Thompson campaign unfolds, it probably won’t include any rodents.