Morristown’s Dougherty running for Morris freeholder

mary dougherty
Mary Dougherty

That’s Mary Dougherty, Morristown’s First Lady.

“I think I have the experience to bring needed change,” Dougherty said on Tuesday.

She aims to become Morris County’s first Democratic freeholder since 1976. While she knows that won’t be easy, she also knows something about elections. She has helped her husband, Tim Dougherty, win three of them as mayor.

Mary Dougherty with 2017 Morristown Democratic primary results. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Mary Dougherty with 2017 Morristown Democratic primary results. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“This is not a head fake. She’s in it to win it,” said Chip Robinson, the Morris County Democratic chairman.

“Mary is a hard worker and a go-getter. I think she should make an outstanding freeholder,” said Mayor Dougherty. “Whatever she needs from me, she’s got it.”

Three, three-year terms on the all-Republican board will be contested in November.

Incumbent Christine Myers of Mendham Township has taken a federal job; incumbents Deborah Smith and John Cesaro are likely to seek re-election.

The probable Democratic slate for the June primary is Rupande Mehta, who ran for the Denville council last year, and Richard Corcoran, an accountant from Boonton who ran for the state Assembly.

Mary Dougherty said concerns about the quality of care at the Morris View nursing home, where her mother-in-law resides, helped motivate her to run. The freeholders recently privatized the facility.

She also has questions about $107 million in renovations and new courtrooms proposed for the county courthouse in Morristown.

“I just feel it’s time to have a different lens on what’s going on in our county–how our money is being spent, how our social services are delivered. Everything has been a mono-vision for so long,” said Mary Dougherty, a realtor.

Robinson estimates it will take about $200,000 to wage a successful freeholder campaign. But he contends the time is right.

Democrats won more than 20 local races across the county last fall, taking 11 Republican seats, and Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.) has opted to retire rather than face an electorate increasingly agitated over his votes in support of President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Mayor Tim Dougherty, First Lady Mary Dougherty and their son Ryan Dougherty prepare to vote on primary day 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Mayor Tim Dougherty, First Lady Mary Dougherty and their son Ryan Dougherty prepare to vote on primary day 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

In addition to bringing great fundraising potential–“she knows so many people” after years of civic involvement–Mary Dougherty is a team player, said Robinson, who defeated her in a hard-fought battle for the county Democratic leadership three years ago.

“Since then, she’s been nothing but supportive of me, as has her husband, and I’m extremely grateful for that,” he said. “She brings a lot of skills to the table that will allow her to win.”

Since moving to Morristown 29 years ago, Mary Dougherty has chaired the town Democratic committee and the town planning board, and served on the Morristown Housing Authority. She is in her 19th year on the Southeast Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority.

The freeholders appointed her a trustee of the county School of Technology, and of the Open Space Trust Fund. She also was a member of the first Morris County Women’s Advisory Council.

For nearly 20 years, Mary Dougherty has taught Sunday school at Morristown’s Assumption Church, where she coordinates its Family Promise program to shelter homeless families. At Mrs. Wilson’s Treatment Center, a halfway house for women, she is the board vice president.

The Doughertys are close to Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), and appear to have a good relationship with Gov. Phil Murphy.

Mary Dougherty said she made up her mind to enter the race this week, after talking it through with Robinson.

“Together, we realized this is a viable race,” Mary Dougherty said. “The landscape is changing, in a good way, for the Democrats.”

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