Old Bridge Councilman Mark Razzoli has had enough and he encourages like-minded Democrats to examine their consciences going forward. The Ward 4 Councilman and former Chairman of the Democratic Organization said “the party left me” and accused Governor Phil Murphy of advancing a “radical socialist agenda” rather than upholding his constitutional oath of office. He has called for Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s resignation, charging him with putting ideological interests before public safety.
As a man following his own conscience, Razzoli left the Democratic Party in August and joined the GOP. “From my perspective, I feel that the party left me,” Razzoli said. “It’s been hijacked by radical socialists whose priority is illegal immigration and an immigration policy that is dangerous to the American people. They’re talking about incentivizing illegal border crossing, when I say incentivizing I mean free healthcare, free education, free attorneys. If they really wanted to resolve the crisis, they could sit down and adjust the law and make a comprehensive immigration law, as opposed to what’s going on now.”
This summer, an Old Bridge Council Meeting video went viral where Councilman Razzoli condemned the Murphy administration’s pursuit of a “sanctuary state” and, after the council sergeant-at-arms silenced a dissenter in the audience, said “when you have elected officials tweeting out warnings, advising criminals how to elude and evade the law enforcement community, that’s a disgrace and a violation of office, and you’re obstructing justice.” The councilman’s message rang out loud and clear, attracting attention as it spread across the internet.
“People came into the council meeting—radical socialists calling the president Hitler, making references to Nazis, calling us Nazis, calling myself and other members of the council racist,” Razzoli fumed. “It’s absolutely ridiculous.”
Razzoli said that illegal immigration, as a national issue, is being politicized to the detriment of the nation, and that there’s no actual impetus to reach any tangible resolution because the argument itself serves its own political purposes. “In my opinion, I think it is being dragged out to be a talking point in the upcoming presidential election. There seems to be no priority to resolve the immigration crisis.”
Furthermore, Razzoli has asserted that incumbent Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12), who he hopes to unseat, has aligned herself with “The Squad”—a nickname for a controversial group of hard-left freshmen congresswomen: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Ilhan Omar (MN), Ayanna Pressley (MA), and Rashida Tlaib (MI). “Bonnie Watson Coleman in my district, I feel, is siding with the Squad—they’re racist, anti-American and anti-Semitic—and I think by Bonnie siding with them, she is not in touch with the constituents in our district.” Bonnie Watson Coleman’s affiliation with the Squad most recently manifested when she held a conference with Omar to introduce the Federal Jobs Guarantee Development Act, which is sponsored by Senator Cory Booker in the upper house.
Razzoli said that he respects the privacy of his conversations with Democrats, and that the announcement of his departure from the party did not come as a surprise, nor apparently stir any ill-will. “My friends in the Democratic Party understand why I changed. I’m a very direct person, I’ll give you an answer which might not always be the answer you want to hear.” Razzoli says that he is not alone, as a former Democrat who was disaffected to the point of leaving the party. “There are a lot of moderate Democrats who are afraid to come forward because they’re fearful of being labeled a racist. When being a proud American make you a racist? It makes no sense to me.
“I think the party leadership just didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to tell these radical socialists to turn away,” he said when asked what had changed within the Democratic Party that no longer made it possible for him to continue his membership. “The socialists know they couldn’t form their own party and win an election, so they came in and hijacked the Democratic Party. The fact of the matter is,” he reiterated, “the party left me at the end of the day.”
So, he is a Democrat no more. But rather than throw up his hands in disgust and leave the political arena, Razzoli is carefully planning his own campaign for Congress, seeking to put grit and hard work up against the immense weight that the Democratic brand has pressing down on the state. “I feel that I’m definitely the person to do the job; I’m all about America first. That’s how it has to start. We have to get back to the basics: public safety and education are the two pillars of any community. People move to a community because it is safe and their children can get a good education, which in turn feeds the local economy. Law enforcement safety is also a concern.”
Bonnie Watson Coleman will be a hard challenge for the newly minted Republican, but Razzoli was optimistic. “Like all campaigns you get out of it what you put into it. People work hard, they can win. I think my message of America first is resonating. I’m getting incredible support, getting emails from around the country. If you work hard I think you can win elections. It’s a matter of what you put into it.”
Hard work has done little to advance the governor’s policy objectives in the legislature, although in matters of the executive branch, through Grewal particularly, he has had more success. That success, of course, had had mixed results for the party faithful—the ever-more-vocal ideological purists and the old guard Dems used to the business end of governance. “The governor is new to politics and his lack of experience is showing,” Razzoli said. “He’s just concerned about advancing his radical socialist agenda.”
And while Murphy may reign over a gold-domed house most thoroughly divided against itself, where an on-going power struggle between the Senate President, Steve Sweeney, and the executive power of the governor are in a perpetual wrestling match, it is reflective as well of closer-to-the-ground division. Case in point: law-and-order Democrats like Razzoli who say they no longer recognize the party they originally joined since the progressive elements, championed by the governor himself, have pulled the Democratic voice further to the left. Razzoli took it a step further, pointing out tangible threats to his comrades in uniform. “Right now we have Governor Murphy and his attorney general—who should resign—putting the lives of members of law enforcement in danger.” Razzoli echoed some of his sentiments during his council meeting speech. “By not notifying ICE where they can do a simple prisoner transfer, you’re making ICE go out into the communities, making home entries. I’ve done those things, it’s very dangerous. People are not considering the lives of law enforcement, they have a right to go home to their families, too.” Razzoli countered the progressive lament that deportation divides families, standing firm-footed as one would expect from a member of the thin blue line. “Here is the reality of it: people are talking about being separated from their families, Americans are separated from their families every day when they get arrested. It happens non-stop in the United States. The priority has to be public safety and national security as well as safety for our law enforcement community.” He said that the rhetoric was following an atmosphere where “members of law enforcement are under attack, being assassinated. All over the United States we see cops are being ambushed.”
He described the course of action by Governor Murphy and the Attorney General as “unacceptable”. During his council speech, Razzoli said, “When the governor and state legislators think they are arbiters of constitutional analysis, there is a problem.”
He is hoping that that message will resonate with enough Republicans and moderate Democrats to help carry him forward in his campaign.
Moreover, “I advocate for legal immigration, I’m opposed to illegal immigration. I said this at the council meeting.”
Attorney General Grewal’s directives to limit the cooperation between local law enforcement with ICE was allegedly based on the supposition that those in the country illegally are unlikely or unwilling to risk being deported if they cooperate with law enforcement. Their fear of ICE will keep them silent, an assertion that Razzoli dismissed outright. “As someone who spent 26 years in law enforcement, as a patrolman and as a detective, I can tell you that’s nonsense. If someone is not going to cooperate, they’re not going to cooperate with law enforcement, that’s just a fact. That’s just an excuse to push this radical agenda. This is all about identity politics and the governor and attorney general advancing their agenda, it’s not about public safety. That’s why I will continue to say, the attorney general should resign because his number one priority is advancing a political agenda, as opposed to public safety, which is his number one job. Any elected officials’ priority should be public safety.”
Razzoli lambasted the NJ Democratic leadership from DC to Trenton. “It blows my mind how we have elected officials who took an oath to uphold the constitution of the United States, and the same people now, Senator Booker and numerous other officials, who tell criminals how to avoid law enforcement. It’s disgraceful.”
Back on the ground, Razzoli seemed confident about his prospects. “I’m in the process of setting up my campaign, my website is set up, and I’m doing everything gradually, getting things set up properly to move forward for victory. My message has been resonating. I’m receiving emails from all over the country, they want me to run for Congress as someone who will put the American people first, getting back to basics.”
When asked if he had any thoughts as to a potential Republican challenger for Phil Murphy, Razzoli declined to speculate. “My priority now is helping Old Bridge Republican candidates and my campaign.”
Since the “Blue Wave” following the mid-term elections all but extinguished Congressional Republicans from New Jersey, Chris Smith excepted, the NJ GOP has had a tenuous relationship with President Trump and the effects his label brings with him. Razzoli did not seem concerned and framed his statements very clearly about what the alternatives offered by the Democratic crop represented. “Obviously, I support the president and border security in a post 9/11 world is something we shouldn’t even have to discuss. You have members of Congress, the so-called Squad which seems to be anti-American, who want to abolish Homeland Security which was created to protect the country post- 9/11. I think in many ways, whether you are a critic of the president, or a supporter, at the end of the day everyone needs to meet halfway and resolve the immigration debate. It’s obvious to people in the communities from the emails I’ve been receiving, that the radical socialists are dragging this along and use it as a talking point for the presidential election.”
Regarding unhappy Democrats, Razzoli offered himself as both an alternative and as an example. “I would tell them to vote for me for Congress or switch parties and join me. It’s not the Democratic Party that we grew up with. The party left me, it’s been hijacked by radical socialists who have this unrealistic agenda and that’s all they’re concerned about.”
Congressman Frank Pallone, whom Razzoli scorched in a statement in May, could be someone a possible Congressman Razzoli would have to conduct business with. “I’ll sit down and work with anyone who is about putting America first. If his agenda is pushing a radical socialist one, obviously we won’t agree on that,” Razzoli said. In his statement, Democrat-at-the-time Razzoli did not hide his thoughts on Pallone, however, when he said “the liberal and socialist rhetoric that has become Pallone’s social media mantra, has no place in a town like Old Bridge.” Razzoli nevertheless stated that he was “willing to work with anyone, that’s what you have to do. You have to sit down and work in a bipartisan manner for what is best for the American people, not what’s best for an ideology or your own personal political agenda. We’re just at the point now where nothing’s getting done.”
Time will tell whether Razzoli’s loud and clear message will spell out dividends for his political aspirations in the future as the former Democrat seeks to carve out his new brand in a politically hostile environment.