Challengers in Tuesday's Democratic primary for local offices in Cherry Hill and Gloucester Township hoped a President Trump-spawned surge of energy would help them disrupt a status quo long maintained by their party's powerful Camden County organization.

The unofficial results in both of these big suburban communities offered scant encouragement to the revolutionaries,  all of whom got clobbered. But the returns also suggest that cliches about the profoundly local nature of all politics can still hold, even in Tweetstorm-y times.

This seemed particularly evident in Cherry Hill, where the shrewdly named Progressive Democrats arose from an burgeoning online community and fielded an interesting slate of fresh-faced aspirants for the four township council seats.

Animated at least in part by liberal despair over Trump, their campaign also sought to capitalize on what seemed like widespread dissatisfaction with the high-octane redevelopment approach of Mayor Chuck Cahn's administration.

Cahn, an affable businessman, was not on the ballot. But the mostly incumbent slate of party regulars, led by council President David Fleisher, ran as the mayor's team. And in voting districts encompassing portions of big west-side neighborhoods such as Erlton and Kingston, the Cahn candidates lost by 2-1.

Which, unfortunately for the challengers, was how badly they got beat by Fleisher and his running mates pretty much everywhere else. And not only due to the financial muscle and tactical sophistication of the regular Democrats.

Progressives failed to unseat party regulars in Cherry Hill. The candidates were (from left) Scott Soffen, Mark Gulbranson Jr, Joshua Hare. and Patty Magnus. (ED HILLE / Staff)
ED HILLE / Staff Photographer.
Progressives failed to unseat party regulars in Cherry Hill. The candidates were (from left) Scott Soffen, Mark Gulbranson Jr, Joshua Hare. and Patty Magnus. (ED HILLE / Staff)

It's one thing to tap the deep vein of NIMBY-ism in the sprawling township, where ambitious if not overblown redevelopment schemes have alarmed many residents in  the older, more working-class, and more diverse neighborhoods west of I-295.

A singularly ill-advised notion to move the municipal building to Kingston's doorstep was one of several Cahn administration initiatives that struck some residents as focused on interests other than those of their neighborhoods.

But as I watched returns come in Tuesday night at county Democratic headquarters on Route 70, I was struck by how an organization bashed by opponents as a soul-free machine is actually deeply neighborhood-centric and rooted in the community.

It has been so for generations; in the crowd at party headquarters were more than a few familiar faces from back when I covered the township for the Cherry Hill News (RIP) in the late 1970s.

These folks have circles of friends who know other circles, and so on — connections born of long service in civic associations and other grassroots endeavors at a level not readily accessible to the generally younger, less-well-known challengers.

The Democratic organization also renews itself by having a keen eye for fresh talent such as council candidate Sangeeta Doshi, an electrical engineer and communications professional with an M.B.A. and three children. She emigrated from India at age 2 and was raised in Boston by parents who became successful professionals.

If Doshi wins in November — Cherry Hill Republicans also will have a slate of council candidates on the general election ballot — she would be the first Indian American elected to office in the southern part of the state. Primary day was her birthday, and the people at what fast became a victory party gave her a hearty rendition of the appropriate tune.

Meanwhile, few elections of consequence in Camden County lack accusations of shadowy shenanigans, and the races this spring in Cherry Hill and Gloucester Township were sadly typical in that regard.

The progressive camp suggested that the name of one of their county committee candidates was deliberately and derisively misspelled on mail-in ballots. The Cahn forces indignantly insisted it had been an honest mistake, pointing out that Doshi's name also had been misspelled.

And Tuesday morning brought allegations of skulduggery in the opening and counting of those mail-in ballots, which, like the votes cast at polling places during the course of primary day, showed the challengers getting trounced.

The Sweet Team -- Gloucester Township mayoral candidate Sam Sweet (second from left) and council candidate Dave Johnson (left) -- greet homeowner Dennis Petersen (right) as they knock on doors in the Cobblestone Farms ahead of the June primary. Campaign volunteer Crystal Evans provided support. (TOM GRALISH / Staff)
Tom Gralish
The Sweet Team -- Gloucester Township mayoral candidate Sam Sweet (second from left) and council candidate Dave Johnson (left) -- greet homeowner Dennis Petersen (right) as they knock on doors in the Cobblestone Farms ahead of the June primary. Campaign volunteer Crystal Evans provided support. (TOM GRALISH / Staff)

A similar fate befell Gloucester Township's Sweet Team, a solid mayor/council slate challenging incumbent Mayor David Mayer and his three running mates, two of them incumbents and all backed by the county party organization.

Given the crushing tax burden on township homeowners, fiscal conservatism, rather than progressivism, was a deliberate focus of the primary challenge.

Gloucester Township politics traditionally have a less-than-genteel streak. Sure enough, scurrilous campaign material darkly accused Sam Sweet and his running mates of being "fake" Republican-backed Democrats who were sloppy at filing campaign financial reports.

Sweet, a natural politician with a down-to-earth personality and an accounting background, did not take kindly to essentially being called a liar.

He also says he intends to continue the fight to ease the property-tax burden that's driving people out of the township.

I hope Sweet does so, and I wish the same of his running mates and the Cherry Hill challengers, too.

Because the Camden County Democrats — who have enjoyed decades of one-party rule — ought to be challenged. And the county Republicans haven't been up to that task for too long.