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Sheriff Frank Balles

Atlantic County’s Republican sheriff is preparing for a state Senate run, according to a recent state filing.

Frank X. Balles, 50, filed the routine initial paperwork last month with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission, designating a treasurer, Doug Heun, and campaign chairperson, his wife, Cynthia Balles.

Balles said he is discussing a run with family, friends and political allies, as well as contemplating what would happen to the county sheriff’s office if he runs. State anti-double dipping laws would require he resign the seat if elected.

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“Of course, as you can imagine, it’s a huge personal decision,” Balles said. “I’m looking at the fact that I would be taking a $58,000 pay cut to do it.”

State senators are paid $49,000, and state law currently requires county sheriffs be paid at least $107,250. Balles received $107,256 in 2011, according to state records.

Balles added that he would run for the seat if he thought he could better serve the people of the 2nd Legislative District, which includes most of Atlantic County, in the Legislature.

He said that he expects to make his final decision in 30 days or less.

“Once I say yes, there is no turning back,” he said. “I want to make sure I talk to all the right people, and that all the people who need to be on board are on board.”

Former Assemblyman Vince Polistina, who unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Sen. Jim Whelan, D-2nd, in 2011, is the only other Republican who has filed paperwork. But Polistina all but ruled out a run, saying he has been very busy with his personal, family and business obligations.

“If (Balles) ends up the candidate in the end,” Polistina said, “I will do everything I can to support him.”

Atlantic City resident Whelan, 64, had $35,507 in his election account as of the most recent filing in October. He is the only Democrat with paperwork indicating a Senate bid.

Atlantic County Republican Chairman Keith Davis said Balles, of the Bargaintown section of Egg Harbor Township, is the only person who has told him he was interested in running for Senate.

Candidates have until 4 p.m. April 1 to file nomination petitions for the June primary.

The district is one of the most politically evenly balanced districts in the state,and has seen spending records set and broken in recent years.

Balles was one of the few local Republicans who won election in 2008, unseating the long-time incumbent Democrat Sheriff James McGettigan by a 7 percentage point margin in a year that otherwise saw wide Democratic gains. Balles handily won re-election in 2011 to another three-year term. Balles served 22 years with the Pleasantville Police Department before winning the seat.

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