Checking in on the New GOP Council in East Hanover

EAST HANOVER – It was big news last month among the political class when the township council here switched party affiliation – en masse – from Democratic to Republican.

Local Republicans were ecstatic and the news was highlighted by the national media.

On Monday, the now-GOP council faced the public at its first regular meeting since the big event.

Three people attended, proving perhaps that big news to some may be no news at all to others.

The mayor, Joseph Pannullo, has not been overly loquacious about the switch.  That continued on Monday.

“We switched parties and we’re glad we did,” Pannullo said before the meeting.

He didn’t want to elaborate, although Pannullo did say he may do so eventually. He noted that he retains the opportunity to talk about the move with any number of media outlets.

The mayor’s only other comment was that public reaction to the move has been positive.

That was confirmed by one of the handful of people at the meeting, who said he thinks the move was a “good thing.”

He added that Pannullo always described himself as a “conservative Democrat.”  Under the polarization of today. such individuals are just about extinct – as are, of course, “liberal Republicans.”
What is not in dispute is East Hanover’s conservative nature, notwithstanding the then-Democratic affiliation of the five council members.

Donald Trump won here by about 2-1 in 2020. By comparison, Joe Biden carried Morris County. Rep. Mikie Sherrill, who got almost 60 percent of the vote across CD-11 last fall, lost badly in East Hanover.

So with that in mind, an all-Republican governing body makes sense.

Sherrill remains the town’s congressional representative and for the moment, East Hanover’s three state legislators are Democrats. That will change next year when the township moves to a mostly-Republican district under a new map.

Politics can be nasty and it’s fair to ask if the party switch may make dealings among town officials and Democratic representatives a bit uncomfortable.

On that, the town administrator, Joseph Tempesta, who is also mayor of West Caldwell, struck an optimistic chord.

He said, “Good government should transcend partisan politics.” Tempesta noted that dealings with Sherrill regarding the Whippany River watershed have always been positive.

As for the council meeting itself, Frank DeMaio Jr., the council president, condemned what he called “keyboard terrorists.” He said these are individuals who have been harshly criticizing the council on social media over development in town.

DeMaio complained that many of the critics do not come to meetings and do not know what they are talking about.

One must presume that “keyboard terrorists” are a bipartisan group.

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