Somerset County Debate Results: Republican Freeholder Pat Walsh Refuses to Answer Trump Question, Says “I Don’t Want to Talk About It.” Chief Parenti Motivated By Politics

Somerset County Freeholder candidate Melonie Marano asked a very simple question of her opponent at the candidate debate hosted by the League of Women Voters last night. Marano asked Republican Walsh “if she supports Donald Trump for president in 2020.” Walsh, who was clearly flustered, decided to dodge the question and instead responded saying, “I cannot do anything about what happens in Washington” and that “I have no idea yet if I will support Donald Trump in 2020.”

Somerset County, home of the Trump National Golf Course, is not immune to national issues such as LGBTQ+ rights. Recently, Marano called on Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) board member Dr. Felecia Nace to resign immediately after it was discovered that Dr. Nace was a leader and speaker at the “Straight Pride Parade” rally held in Boston last August.

“At a time when our county is becoming more diverse, and our young college students are becoming more understanding about LGBTQ+ issues, we cannot have board members who actively try to exclude gay studies from education,” said Marano.  

Dr. Nace’s nomination was made in July 2017 on a motion by Republican Freeholder Pat Walsh. The vote by the then all-Republican Freeholder Board was unanimous. 

Republican County Chairman Al Gabruo took a page out of Walsh’s playbook and in response to the request for Nace to resign, avoided the issue and instead pointed to Dr. Nace’s qualifications. Walsh has also remained silent on the issue.

Republican Walsh has a history of avoiding LGBTQ+ subjects. “This is part of a pattern with Pat. As Mayor of Green Brook in 2006 when civil unions became legal, she refused to perform any weddings in order to avoid performing a ceremony for a loving same-sex couple.”  Marano on the other hand stated, “I was proud to be the first Mayor in Green Brook to perform a same-sex civil union ceremony.”

“The residents of Somerset County deserve a Freeholder board that doesn’t make mistakes like appointing an anti-LGBTQ+ activist to oversee the education of our college students,” said Marano. “Fortunately, the Somerset County Freeholder Board is one member away from real leadership that will be open, honest and supportive of the entire Somerset County community.”

In the debate for Somerset County Sheriff, Republican candidate Bill Parenti touted his new initiatives, such as his recently announced partnership with the current Sheriff to combat opioid addiction. 

Democratic candidate Darrin Russo asked a heartfelt question of his opponent Chief Parenti. Russo wanted to know what Parenti would say to the parents or family members of someone who has battled an opioid addiction over the past several years. Russo questioned “why as a chief for over a decade, head of the chief’s association and good buddy with the current sheriff, Parenti didn’t introduce these programs earlier.” Parenti simply stated “years ago I was not running for sheriff”. 

The program introduced by Parenti has been in effect for several years in other communities. “Imagine the number of lives that we could have saved if programs to treat addiction were implemented years ago,” stated Russo. “It’s a shame that the Republican candidate for Sheriff didn’t use his current chief’s position to help the residents of this county and now he is scrambling to come up with ideas because he is running for office.”