As the current Biden government loses popular support as the public’s awareness of the myriad concerns grows, an increasing number of people are reconsidering their political vote in the forthcoming 2024 elections. Faith in President Joe Biden has been dropping in the mainstream, and even among Democrats, confidence in Vice President Kamala Harris has plummeted.
New Jersey has generally been a blue state. Since 1992, the state has been considered a Democratic stronghold, voting for the Democratic candidate in every presidential election. However, the tendency of looking to the right for remedies in contemporary challenges is happening in New Jersey, with one municipality seeing a total political turnaround. In traditionally Republican-leaning Morris County, the numbers of elected municipal Democrats have grown in recent years, despite the GOP still has a 20,115-person registration edge (136,399 Republicans to 119,284 Democrats, along with 141,209 unaffiliated voters.)
On Tuesday, the state’s elected authorities in East Hanover, New Jersey, released a political surprise, declaring that longstanding Mayor Joseph Pannullo and the entire township council had switched their party allegiance from Democrat to Republican.
According to the Daily Record, Panullo, council President Frank DeMaio, and fellow members Brian Brokaw, Carolyn Jandoli, and Michael Martorelli all joined the GOP “after months of good conversations,” according to Morris County Republican Committee Chairwoman Laura Ali.
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. But, he added: “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. 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.”
Ali, the county chairwoman, said Republicans were “ecstatic” about the East Hanover switch.
“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.”
Donald Trump won big in East Hanover in 2020, capturing 66% of the vote, according to state records. 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.
Democrats are defeated, but not defeated. They are holding on in Morris Township, Mendham Township, and Boonton, among other New Jersey municipalities. On Tuesday, a Mendham Township Republican withdrew a lawsuit disputing last November’s election results, allowing Democrats to acquire a second member on the longtime Republican stronghold’s governing body.
Despite recent outcomes, the Democratic Party chair refuses to recognise a shift in the tide. “Of course, I am disappointed,” Amalia Duarte, the Democratic chairperson for Morris County, said in an emailed statement. “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 New Jersey Globe political news website broke the news of the party transfer first.
In the GOP statement, Pannullo said his priorities would remain 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.”
Pannullo, DeMaio and Martorelli are up for re-election in November. Notably, statewide redistricting moved East Hanover this year from the Democrat-controlled 27th legislative district to the Republican-represented 26th. State Assemblyman Brian Bergen, who represents the 26th district, said 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.”
The Daily Record noted:
The Democrats’ Duarte, however, argued that her party has enjoyed a net gain in Morris County compared to past years, including Democratic representation from Sherrill in Congress for a majority of the county’s municipalities. “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.”