(CBrief) – The entire city council in a New Jersey town has switched their party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, citing the “nastiness” and “vitriol” of national politics and the Dems’ increasingly leftward shift.
According to the Daily Record, town leaders in East Hanover, N.J., made the switch last week, noted Mayor Joseph Pannullo.
“Municipal leaders have a responsibility to best represent their constituents, and it is our belief this change of party is in the best interest of the community,” Pannullo said in a statement. As the nastiness, rhetoric and social media vitriol of national politics continues to infiltrate local governance, we collectively determined this was the best course of action to keep the focus on local issues impacting our community.”
The local outlet noted further:
Morris County Republican Committee Chairwoman Laura Ali said in a statement that Panullo, council President Frank DeMaio and fellow members Brian Brokaw, Carolyn Jandoli and Michael Martorelli had all joined the GOP “after months of good conversations.”
Pannullo, who’s represented the town of 11,000 people since 2007, didn’t respond to messages seeking comment. He didn’t cite a specific factor motivating the switch in the Republican Committee statement.
“Of course, I am disappointed,” Morris County’s Democratic chairwoman, Amalia Duarte, said in a statement regarding the council’s political shift. “But, the real story is that Morris County is rapidly trending more Democratic, as we saw in the last election cycle. We won new municipal seats, flipped Morris Township to entirely Democratic and all of our incumbents were re-elected, including in East Hanover.”
The Daily Record noted that the county is historically a Republican stronghold in the state, but Democratic voter registrations have been closing the gap in recent years.
That said, “Donald Trump won big in East Hanover in 2020, capturing 66% of the vote, according to state records,” the outlet reported. “Last year, Republican Paul DeGroot carried the township with 68% in his unsuccessful bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill in the 11th Congressional District. Sherrill won with 57% of the overall district, including 53% in Morris County.”
GOP chair Ali said she was “ecstatic” about the council’s political shift.
“The entire Republican Party in Morris County is welcoming Mayor Pannullo and East Hanover’s four council members to our family with open arms and great excitement!” she said. “East Hanover is an exceptionally run town with great leadership. It is clear we share the same values as Mayor Panullo and his Council and we are so excited to have them be part of our Republican family.”
Pannullo said his priorities will stay the same: “Combating the overburdening and unrealistic fair-share housing mandates, keeping taxes stable, enhancing our parks and investing in public safety needs to be our local priorities. Every decision my administration makes is about putting East Hanover first, this is no different.”
Congressional redistricting following the 2020 Census, the Daily Record continued, moved East Hanover from the Dem-controlled 27th legislative district to the GOP-represented 26th district.
State Assemblyman Brian Bergen, who represents the 26th, told the outlet that the Morris County Republican Party “has incredible momentum, and this is a great indication of our progress.”
“Mayor Pannullo and his entire council are a great team, and we are glad to have them join us,” Bergen said. “2023 will be a big year and this is just the beginning.”
But Duarte countered that, actually, the momentum is moving in favor of more Democrats in the county.
“If you look back 20 years ago, Democrats made up only 15% of registered voters in Morris County and Republicans were at 32%,” she said. “Now, Morris County is 30% Democrat, and Republicans are at 34%. This trend is just going to continue; they are stagnant. Democrats in Morris County have momentum.”
The county has a sizable plurality of independent or unregistered voters as well, the local outlet reported, adding that the party switch by the town council “was first reported by the New Jersey Globe political news site.”