Readington Township Committeewoman Donna Simon swept to an easy victory Thursday night, when Republicans in the 16th Assembly District selected her to fill the seat of the late Peter Biondi.
Simon received 155 votes—63 percent—of the 254 Republican committee members from Hunterdon, Somerset, Middlesex and Mercer counties at the convention held at the .
Coming in second, with 52 votes, was Princeton real estate executive Bill Spadea and in third place, with 38 votes, was South Brunswick resident John Saccenti. Raritan Township animal rights activist Barbara Sachau, who entered the race this week after the ballots were printed, got 0 votes.
Simon will serve in the Assembly until a special election on November’s ballot to choose who will serve the remaining year of Biondi’s term. Biondi, a former Hillsborough mayor and Somerset County freeholder, .
Spadea, who was not expecting to win Tuesday’s vote, has said that he will run in the June primary for the Republican nomination in the November election.
The 16th District, which used to be mostly in Somerset County, now contains municipalities from four counties — Hillsborough, Branchburg, Manville, Millstone, Montgomery, Somerville and Rocky Hill; Princeton Township and Princeton Borough in Mercer; Delaware, Flemington, Raritan Township, Readington and Stockton in Hunterdon and South Brunswick in Middlesex.
Simon, who served as Hunterdon County coordinator for Gov. Chris Christie in 2009, received the endorsement of the party organizations in Hunterdon and Somerset counties, including the backing of Congressman Leonard Lance, State Sen. Kip Bateman, Assemblyman Jack Ciatarelli and Joan Biondi, widow of the late assemblyman.
“I am overwhelmed and honored,” Simon said after the votes were announced. “I’m looking forward to November. We’re going to kick some butt in November.”
Simon told the Republicans that she will focus “full-time”on her Assembly seat. She said she would push for a law that would eliminate pension and health benefits for municipal officials.
Simon, 51, said she was the only elected official among the four candidates who has a record of cutting taxes and reducing public debt. She also said her “tenacious and tireless” personality who will be an asset in the fall campaign.
In the new 16th District, registered Democrats hold a slight edge over Republicans which could be crucial in a presidential election when turnout is higher.
Party leaders in Somerset and Hunterdon had backed Hunterdon Freeholder William Mennen to fill the seat but Mennen, a resident of Tewksbury, withdrew from consideration because he would have to move into the district.