A Brief Recent History of NJ Party Switching


In a time of bitterly partisan politics, the impacts of party changes are often framed, but never so elegantly couched, in cataclysmic terms, where battle lines are drawn and the political armies are waging a real war for the direction as well as the very soul of America.

For the political establishment and activist organizations, talk of Congressman Jeff Van Drew’s impending departure from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party has politicos and the party faithful howling betrayal on the left or praising his actions following the adage “to thine ownself be true”.

Crossing the aisle on policy issues can, unfortunately for democracy, be enough to blacken the eye of a politician.  That being said, an outright change is unforgivable to some.  “I care not to have thee speak, accursed traitor; for unto thy shame I will report of thee veracious news,” Dante Aligheri wrote in his poetic imaginings of a Virgil-led tour of the afterlife.  In “The Inferno”, the lowest circles of Hell were reserved for those who betrayed their wards and benefactors where contorted souls were frozen in ice, enduring eternal damnation in bitter cold blown up by Satan’s wings.  An image, perhaps, welcome to party loyalists when news of a defection breaks.

But if Dante, writing in 14th Century Italy, had a snapshot of New Jersey politics in the age of Donald Trump, he would have to decide if the frozen depths of Hell would be in need of more Zambonis for the enlarged demonic ice rink if swapping a D for an R or an R for a D constituted such a heinous crime.  And how much does it matter to regular residents whose confidence in American democracy is increasingly questioned?  Except, perhaps, to the most fervent brand cheerleaders, neither affiliation is perceived as particularly angelic by the public at large.

Here we look at a few other New Jersey politicians who have struggled, for various motives, with their party and traded in to play for the other team.

Dawn Marie Addiego – Switched from Republican to Democrat in January of 2019.  She served as a Republican State Senator for the 8th District since 2011 before her defection to the Democratic Party.  Previously, she was Assistant Republican Whip in the NJ Assembly and spoke against then-Governor Corzine’s COAH requirements.

Jim Fozman – Served Brick, NJ, as a Democratic councilman until a rift with the mayor and council over what Fozman asserts was a lack of transparency and political shift farther to the left in the leadership.  He and Democratic Mayor John Ducey, former running mates, clashed in the contentious lead up to Forzman’s 2018 switch to the Republican Party.

Jen Giattino – Hoboken 6th ward councilwoman and GOP mayoral candidate, she told the Patch “I’m not Trump” and revealed to the Hudson County View she voted for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson in the 2016 election.  When the Hoboken Democratic Committee first met in 2018, she announced her official change to the Democratic Party.

Mark Razzoli – Frustrated by what he said was a Democratic Party “hijacked” by the far-left, the Old Bridge councilman left the party and became a Republican.  “I didn’t leave the party, the party left me,” he told InsiderNJ.  Razzoli gained widespread attention online following a fiery speech at an Old Bridge council meeting, lambasting Governor Murphy and AG Grewal over the issue of sanctuary cities.

John Curley – Former GOP Monmouth County freeholder, he broke with the party and ran as an independent in 2018.  His campaign was marred by a firestorm of accusations and counter-accusations of corruption and sexual harassment.  Charges of sexual harassment against Curley were dropped in court and Monmouth County was held in contempt.  The former Republican came in at a distant 3rd in the 2018 general election.

Mark Lutz – The Philipsburg Councilman echoed the sentiments of Razzoli, when the Democrat-turned-Republican said that he had been aggravated by the “socialist” ideology of the Democratic Party.  After mounting an unsuccessful primary challenge against Mayor Stephen Ellis, he switched parties in October and will be leaving office with the end of his council term this year.

Todd Tersigni – Another Philipsburg Councilman of multiple labels, he ran for mayor on an independent ticket without success before landing two terms as a Democrat on the council.  Like Lutz, he sought to unseat the embattled Mayor Ellis, but switched to the Republican Party to run in an unopposed primary and, ultimately, a successful general election.

Robert Turkavage – The former FBI agent and JPMorgan Chase Global Securities VP ran for CD-2 in 2018 on the Republican ticket, taking fourth place against Seth Grossman.  Grossman, in turn, was defeated by Jeff Van Drew who is about to go from blue to red.  Turkavage has announced his bid to run for Congress again, but as a Democrat.  Horrified by Trump’s “scum” remarks about the Bureau which he served over 30 years, Turkavage said in a statement that “I cannot support this President and the Republican Party that continues to allow his lawlessness to go unchecked.”

Francis Bodine – Former Republican, Moorestown mayor and Burlington County Freeholder, between 1994-2008 he served as an Assemblyman for LD 8, holding positions such as Assistant Whip and later Deputy Assembly Leader.  Bodine switched to the Democratic Party in 2007 and made an unsuccessful NJ Senate run against Republican Phil Haines.  Bodine’s Assembly seat was taken up by fellow Republican-turned-Democrat, Dawn Marie Addiego, in 2008.

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