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Aged New Jersey Senator Who Backed Trump Switches Parties

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


An 87-year-old state senator in New Jersey who supported former President Donald Trump is now becoming a Democrat in response to moves made by GOP officials there.

Sen. Samuel Thompson has served four terms as a Republican, but he announced on Monday that he’s going to seek reelection as a Democrat after state GOP officials questioned his fitness for office due to his age. “I have not left my party. My party leadership has left me,” he said regarding the switch, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Thompson’s decision to leave the GOP came after state party leaders chose to support another, younger, candidate. “The betrayal by so many of my friends — that was too much for me,” Thompson said, per the outlet.

The long-serving former Republican was asked if his friendship with and support of Trump would make it more difficult for him to transition to the Democratic Party, Thompson said, “Everybody is entitled to their own choice and what they’re going to do.”

Meanwhile, Bog Bengivenga, the Middlesex County GOP chairman, said he was disappointed by Thompson’s decision because he considers him a friend and adviser and stated he wouldn’t continue in that capacity.

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Regarding the party’s decision to back a younger candidate, the chairman said, “I was hoping the Senator would embrace it and work together as a mentor and advisor for the years to come.”

It’s unclear if the state Democratic Party will embrace Thompson, but Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy welcomed him, calling him a “tireless public servant,” according to the Inquirer.

Elsewhere in New Jersey, an entire city council recently 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.”

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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.

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“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.

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“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.”

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