Republicans appeared to have gained control of the Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders on Tuesday, barring any potential challenges to a series of close elections.

With 91 of 92 voting districts reporting, Republican Mary Gruccio led Democrat James Dunkins by a vote of 11,463 to 10,687, giving Republicans the one win they needed to hold a 4-3 majority on the freeholder board.

Gruccio will serve the remaining year of a three-year term left vacant when Democrat Louis Magazzu resigned in August. Magazzu resigned from the freeholder board after nude photographs of himself that he sent to an alleged Internet girlfriend surfaced on the Internet

Three Democrats — incumbent William Whelan and first-time freeholder candidates Carol Musso and Tony Surace — won election to three, three-year seats on the board.

Voting as reported by the Board of Elections showed 11,928 votes for Whelan, 11,746 votes for Musso, 11,609 votes for Surace, 4,533 votes for Jody Farabella, 4,470 votes for Sandra Taylor, and 4,290 votes for William Gonzalez. Farabella, Taylor and Gonzalez are Republicans.

In the race for sheriff, incumbent Democrat Robert Austino edged out Republican challenger Michael Barruzza by a vote of 11,592 to 11,107.

Meanwhile, the Board of Elections said Millville residents voted 2,740 to 408 in a nonbinding public referendum to move Millville’s nonpartisan election from May to November.

This year’s freeholder election featured eight candidates. Whelan and Dunkins were the only incumbents running.

Dunkins had originally opted against running for a second three-year term on the freeholder board, saying he wanted to devote more time to his church. Democrats eventually convinced him to run for the rest of Magazzu’s unexpired term. Another Democratic freeholder, Jane Jannarone, decided not to run for a second term on the board, saying she wanted to devote more time to her business and family.

Austino’s victory give some job security to two officials holding Cumberland County government posts.

Barruzza promised during the campaign to remove the warden and public safety director positions from county government as a cost-saving measure. The warden position is currently held by Robert Balicki, who is co-chair of Cumberland County’s Democratic Party.

Millville officials said moving the election from May to November would likely increase voter participation. They also said the city would save about $60,000 every four years by not having to pay for another election.

Officials in Vineland this year approved moving their nonpartisan elections from May to November. Vineland officials also said the change will increase voter turnout and save the city money.

Contact Thomas Barlas:

609-226-9197

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