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The expungement of Cumberland County Freeholder Jack Surrency from the party line produced competing story lines about why it happened, and also set up the prospect of expedient friendships off-the-line in a 2020 batteground region of the state.
In fact it was exactly a state of volalility that resulted in Surrency’s trouble with the party organization, he told InsiderNJ. “I was interested in running for Congress,” said the Democrat, who like others in his party objected to U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew’s (R-2) decision to reject his Democratic affiliation an saddle up with President Donald J. Trump and the Republicans.
“I was contacted about it by several people in Cape May County,” Surrency recalled of fast-moving events on the heels of Van Drew’s party switch. “This went through the county like wildfire.”
He was looking hard at congress, he says, only the party was going in another direction.
“They were going to back Brigid Harrison for Congress,” said the freeholder. He said he hadn’t heard of her, wanted his service as a former Bridgeton School Board member and councilman and sitting freeholder considered, and spoke against the organizations lining up behind her.
“I didn’t like what was going on,” Surrency said. “And it has been an uphill battle for me from that day forward.”
It came to a head earlier this year when the party organization refused to reup him for freeholder, going instead with Bruce Cooper.
In a release, Surrency called out former Cumberland County Democratic Chairman Doug Long for rigging the county party selection process, pushing out the only African-American on the freeholder board, and exacting revenge for political orders Surrency would not heed.”
“Doug Long is disenfranchising the black community by removing me from the county party line,” said Surrency. “It is insulting that he believes that you can just replace one black man with another black man.”
Current Cumberland County Democratic Chairman Steve Erickson disputed the freeholder’s version of what went down.
“The process we had this year was the same process we always have,” the chairman told InsiderNJ. “It was very democratic. No one ever complained when Jack was selected. It was the same process it was now. Everyone had a chance to make a three-minute presentation and it went to a [committee] vote. That’s the way it’s done, I’m sorry. They wanted something new. Bruce Cooper was pretty aritculate in his presentation.”
A former middle linebacker, Surrency said it’s bossism, pure and simple.
“If you fall out of line with the party bosses, they push you aside,” the freeholder said. “They have a 6-1 freeholder board, so I’m expendable. They can deal with 5-2.”
His push-out from the party establishment sets up a possible off the line partnership with another similarly positioned up-ballot candidate, in this case possible mental health advocate Amy Kennedy, who is running for Congress in the 3rd District. Her foil, Montclair University Political Science Professor Harrison, has the line in Cumberland. Surrency this week planned to talk strategy with others, among them representatives of Kennedy.
“That’s in the works right now,” the freeholder told InsiderNJ.
Can he win off the line, especially if he affiliates with a congressional candidate like Kennedy?
“I have a pretty good feeling,” said Surrency. “I go across the board with Democrats, Republicans and independents. I try to help people with their problems.”