Robinson Takes the Somerset Fight to Ciattarelli’s Backyard


RARTAN – Somerset County Commission Director Shanel Robinson campaigned here today in this blue collar river town where Republican nominee for Governor Jack Ciattarelli grew up before he moved to Hillsborough.

An incumbent Democrat, Robinson led the charge against the GOP during the era of Donald J. Trump, and now seeks another countywide win to confirm Democratic dominance in this county that once produced the successful GOP gubernatorial candidacy of Christie Todd Whitman.

Robinson laughed off the suggestion that she’s intentionally rattling Ciattarelli’s home turf.

“When you’re a true leader, you’re a leader for everyone, regardless of party affiliation,” said the Commissioner Director as she went door-to-door with Raritan Borough Councilman Pablo Orozco. “We are leaders for all people at all times. The work is still the work, and we are ready to continue to do the work.”

Somerset bore an especially large burden of Tropical Storm Ida, and its aftermath.

“We just have to continue to stay connected to those in need, with FEMA, the Red Cross and other nonprofit agencies to help people put their lives back together,” said Robinson, who met with President Joe Biden in the wake of the devastating storm that killed 30 New Jerseyans, destroyed property and ruined many homes, including many in Manville.

“Some will not be able to return [to their homes],” the commissioner said, especially in reference to those Manville residents made homeless by Ida.

“At this point the focus is on how do you help them navigate to get to the next step,” the commissioner director said. “It’s one step at a time, and the big picture is definitely to get them to somewhere else.”

Robinson said she was grateful for federal help, but said Somerset County did the work to ensure the county received aid.

Robinson, left, campaigns Wednesday in Raritan with Orozco.
Robinson, left, campaigns Wednesday in Raritan with Orozco.


“The federal response was quick, and I have to give credit to our staff – the first responders, roads and bridges crews – they were out there in the thick of the storm and after the storm. Thanks to them, we knew what the damage was to give information to FEMA in order for us to get that FEMA disaster declaration.”

Robinson acknowledged that Somerset would have to take a hard look at its master plan subsequent to Tropical Storm Ida.

“It’s the fourth storm in two decades – they’re coming quicker and more furious,” said the the commissioner, noting that the county is part of preliminary discussions about some of the houses in Manville being bought out and made into a park.

“Those are very premature discussions,” said Robinson, who described her and her partner on the commission as “battletested.”

For the full InsiderNJ interview with Robinson, which includes her thoughts on the governor’s race, her best case for why Democrats deserve reelection, and COVID-19 challenges, please watch the video below:

The Republicans running countywide for the seats now occupied by Robinson and her running mate, Commissioner Sara Sooy, had something to say in response.

“My opponent sidesteps the issue of the county’s failure to close all three flood gates around Bound Brook,” said Bridgewater Councilman Michael Kirsh.  “Hours after it was clear that Ida was an historic storm, the flood gate was still open, and a train became stuck, which stopped the flood wall from doing its job.”
Kirsh’s running mate, Amber Murad said, “I am thankful for the tireless work of the first responders. However, people are looking for answers.  I join with those who have called for an investigation of the county’s failure to protect Bound Brook residents and business.  Someone needs to be held responsible.”



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