In an unusually dramatic turn of events in the world of local politics, Joseph Pannullo, the mayor of East Hanover, New Jersey, announced that he has changed party affiliation from Democrat to Republican and was joined in doing so by all four members of the township council, as the Hanover Daily Record reports.
The council officials taking part in the transition include the body's president, Frank DeMaio, and members Brian Brokaw, Carolyn Jandoli, and Michael Martorelli.
According to a statement issued by Morris County Republican Committee Chairwoman Laura Ali, the now-former Democrats all decided to change allegiances to the GOP following “months of good conversations.”
In explaining the sweeping move, Pannullo stated, according to the New Jersey Globe, “Municipal leaders have a responsibility to best represent their constituents, and it is our belief this change of party is in the best interests of the community.”
The mayor continued, “As the nastiness, rhetoric, and social media vitriol of national politics continues to infiltrate local governance, we collectively determined this was the best courts of action to keep the focus on local issues impacting our community – 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,” Pannullo concluded. “This is no different.”
Ali indicated that Ace Gallagher, mayor of neighboring Hanover, played an important role in persuading his colleagues in East Hanover to change sides, and she expressed enthusiasm for what is to come.
The county GOP chair said, “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.”
Heralding the track record and integrity of the newly minted Republicans, Ali added, “East Hanover is an exceptionally run town with great leadership. 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.”
Ali was not alone in offering words of welcome to the former Democrats, with former Councilwoman Sue Tietjen pledging, “We will work together moving East Hanover.
Discussing the reception the mayor and council members will receive in their new party fold, Assistant Senate Minority Leader Joseph Pennacchio (R-Montville) said, “Whether you are a lifelong Republican or a transplanted Democrat such as me, you are immediately welcomed and accepted without hesitation.”
Pannullo's abandonment of the Democrat Party after sixteen years of service as mayor is a notable milestone, indeed, particularly in light of the strides Republicans have made in the East Hanover area in recent years.
Back in 2020, Donald Trump secured 66% of the East Hanover vote, then in 2021, Republican Jack Ciattarelli received a whopping 74% of the vote in East Hanover in his – ultimately unsuccessful – race against Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy, as the Daily Record noted. In 2022, Paul DeGroot secured 68% of the vote in his contest against Rep. Mikie Sherrill, indicative of a substantial well of support for the GOP in an otherwise rather blue state.
In lauding the broader implications of the changes in East Hanover, Bob Hugin, New Jersey Republican State Committee chair, said, “Today's complete party flip...is an early signal of the Republicans' growing momentum ahead of the critical November elections. Voters know that any official running with a 'D' next to their name in our one-party control state is responsible for aiding and abetting the radical Phil Murphy agenda that is driving energy prices up and people out of their homes.”