In a control-year countywide election in Somerset, former K9 Unit Commander Tim Pino this week announced his 2019 candidacy for the office of Sheriff. A Republican, Pino is running for an office currently held by long-serving Sheriff Frank Provenzano.
The last time he ran, Provenzano barely won, staving off retired Franklin Police Officer Darren Russo by just over 1,400 votes. Democrats expect Russo to run again this year, alongside an as-yet undetermined freeholder candidate as the surging party hopes to build on the 2018 victories of Shanel Robinson and Sara Sooy. Another Democratic pick-up in the board race would flip Somerset to Democratic control. On the ballot this year, Republican Freeholder Pat Walsh is intent on making sure that doesn’t happen.
Somerset County Republican Committee Chairman Al Gaburo said he expects Provenzano to run again, and intends to give the incumbent lawman his full support.
In the meantime, Pino wants the sheriff’s seat.
“After two years of SCGOP losing county & legislative seats to SC Dems a lot of Republicans (county and statewide) wanted me to enter the 2019 race to shake up the political landscape to re-energize and grow our base,” the retired K9 commander told InsiderNJ.
“I hope to become the 1st Sheriff in the history of the state to also work a Police K9 while in office. If I win I will also be bringing the first ever Muslim and African American Undersheriffs to the Sheriff’s Office. Somerset County is a beautiful & diverse county and it needs the Sheriff’s Office to also reflect that diversity. The community outpouring [supporting me along with VERY encouraging pre-campaign fundraising] has been humbling over past few months.”
Contacted for comment on the heels of Pino’s formal announcement, Somerset County Republican Chairman Gaburo issued a statement of support for incumbent Sheriff Provenzano.
“The Somerset County Sheriff is Frank Provenzano,” Gaburo said. “I fully expect Sheriff Provenzano, who has done an excellent job, to be the Somerset County Republican Organization candidate for this year’s election.
“Should any of that change, I will look forward to having a conversation with the county committee,” he added.