The results of this year's Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders election will leave Democrats in control of the panel. The test for Republicans is to try to cut into that Democratic majority as much as possible.

Democrats hold a 5-2 majority on the board. The panel's two Republicans - Sam Fiocchi and Carl Kirstein - are not seeking re-election to the board. Fiocchi is running for a 2nd Legislative District Assembly seat.

Two three-year seats on the panel are being contested. Republicans are running Thomas Sheppard, who operates Sheppard Farms in Lawrence Township and who lost a freeholder re-election bid last year, and William Gonzalez, a Vineland insurance broker who lost a freeholder bid in 2011.

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Their Democratic opponents are Darlene Barber, an Upper Deerfield Township resident and former superintendent of the Cumberland County Vocational and Education Center, and Albert Morgan, pastor of Union Baptist Temple in Bridgeton.

Voters also will decide whether Democrat Carlos Mercado, a former Vineland Board of Education member, will serve out the final year of the term left vacant when Democrat William Whelan resigned from the freeholder board in July.

Mercado is being challenged by Republican James Sauro, a former Cumberland County freeholder and owner of Sauro Plumbing, Heating and Water Care.

The race became a littler livelier on Sept. 4, when Mercado charged Republicans with trying to thwart plans to spend $8.2 million to buy a Vineland office building that houses the county's social services and Workforce Investment Board offices. Mercado said Republican opposition helped drive up the price of the building.

Republicans accused Mercado of playing politics and holding an illegal meeting outside the building to announce the purchase. They also said another plan to build a multimillion-dollar county government office building in downtown Bridgeton is ill-planned.

Democrats have taken some shots at individual Republican candidates. Television commercials have mocked Sheppard's freeholder voting record and charged he took a $30,000 government subsidy to grown asparagus on his farm. Other commercials paint Sauro as a right-wing radio talk show host.

The other county position up for election this year is the position of surrogate.

Incumbent Democrat Douglas Rainer, of Upper Deerfield Township, will seek a second five-year term. Rainer's Republican challenger is Vineland Police Chief Timothy Codispoti.

Elections will be held on Nov. 5.

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