New Jersey may be considered a blue state at the presidential level, but the GOP remains competitive.
And it just got a big boost.
In East Hanover township, Mayor Joseph Pannullo left the Democrat Party to join the GOP… and so did all four members of the township council.
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The lawmakers stunned local media Wednesday by announcing their party switch in a press release. The mayor attributed the switch to a “nastiness, rhetoric and social media vitriol of national politics” which “continues to infiltrate local governance.”
“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,” the mayor said in a statement obtained by Insider NJ. “We collectively determined this was the best course of action to keep the focus on local issues impacting our community – combating the overburdening & unrealistic fair-share housing mandates, keeping taxes stable, enhancing our parks and investing in public safety needs to be our local priorities.”
Local media called the move an “Unprecedented Flip.”
Morris County GOP Chair Laura Ali attributed the switch to “the extraordinary working relationship between Hanover Township Mayor Ace Gallagher and the local East Hanover government.” Ace Gallagher, the mayor of nearby Hanover Township, is a Republican.
“It is clear we share the same values as Mayor Pannullo and his Council and we are so excited to have them be part of our Republican family,” the county chair continued. “East Hanover is an exceptionally run town with great leadership… I can’t thank Mayor Gallagher enough for his help in making this possible.”
The national GOP has remained silent, but the state and local parties have embraced the new converts.
“I want to commend Mayor Joseph Pannullo, along with Council President Frank DeMaio, Jr, Councilwoman Carolyn Jandoli, and Councilmen Brian Brokaw, Sr. and Michael Martorelli, for making a commonsense choice that will best serve their constituents going forward,” New Jersey GOP Chair Bob Hugin said in the press release. “I also want to particularly thank Morris County GOP Chair Laura Ali for help facilitating a warm welcome to our new partners in fighting for greater affordability and against Trenton overreach.”
“I welcome Mayor Pannullo and the entire Council into the Republican party,” Sue Tietjen, local GOP chair, said in the press release. “We will work together moving East Hanover forward.”
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Pannullo has served as mayor since 2007, presiding over the town’s 11,000 residents.
East Hanover lies within New York City’s metropolitan statistical area, the site of a red wave in 2022. The town is represented entirely by Democrats at the state and federal levels, but the Morris County Board of Commissioners contains Republicans only.
New Jersey remains a solidly Democratic state at the presidential level, but the state sometimes deviates from national trends. In fact, New Jersey holds state-level elections in odd-numbered years, a whole year away from national elections.
In 2021, for example, the Republican candidate for governor outperformed the polls and ran only three points behind the incumbent Democrat.
That same year, Republican newcomer Edward Durr reportedly spent only $2,300 on his campaign, filmed his advertisements on a cell phone camera, and still unseated the Democrat president of the state Senate.
The Horn editorial team