While the nation is focusing on 2024’s presidential election, New Jersey is holding state-level elections this year… and the Garden State just got a huge shakeup.
New Jersey state Sen. Samuel Thompson, 87, said Monday he’s leaving the Republican Party and plans to seek reelection this year as a Democrat.
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Despite switching parties, Thompson is retaining his support for former President Donald Trump. When asked about the prospects for a Trump supporter in today’s Democrat Party, Thompson said, “Everybody is entitled to their own choices and what they’re going to do.”
Thompson left the GOP after party leaders questioned his fitness for office because of his age.
“The betrayal by so many of my friends — that was too much for me,” he told the Associated Press in a phone interview. “I am not leaving my party. My party leadership has left me.”
Sure enough, Middlesex County Republican Chairman Rob Bengivenga said that the party leaders decided to support another candidate for state Senate. However, he still hoped that Thompson would play some role in the GOP’s future.
“I was hoping the Senator would embrace it and work together as a mentor and advisor for the years to come,” the county GOP chair told the AP.
Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement that he welcomed Thompson to the party and called him a tireless public servant.
After the switch, the Democrats would hold 25 of the chamber’s 40 seats. They’ve held between 24 or 25 seats in every session since 2012.
All 120 seats in the Assembly and Senate are up for reelection this year. The primary is set for June, when Thompson could have faced a primary challenger against him in the GOP if he still ran. It’s unclear whether Democrats will run a candidate against him in the party’s primary.
The senator represents the 12th Legislative District, which includes parts of Burlington, Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean counties. He served as a delegate to every Republican National Convention from 1988 to 2012.
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Thompson, a former research scientist who served in the Army, said he plans to run for office in this year’s legislative election. He said unlike some lawmakers who work part time as legislators while also holding other jobs, he works only as a legislator.
“It is my life. It gives me something to do every day when I wake up to get there and help people. The alternative is sit at home and just wait to die? I have to be active,” he said. “I think I’m doing a public service.”
Thompson isn’t the only Jersey pol to switch parties. Earlier this month, East Hanover Township watched its mayor leave the Democratic Party for the GOP… along with all four members of the town council.
Read more: Entire city council quit Dems, join Republicans
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article.