EAST HANOVER – Donald Trump in 2020 carried this town on the eastern fringes of Morris County by a stunning margin of 2-1.
“Stunning” is the appropriate term when you consider that Trump’s win here was the largest of any town in the county – by far.
In 2022, Rep. Mikie Sherrill, who polled nearly 60 percent of the vote across CD-11, nevertheless lost the township to Republican Paul DeGroot by a margin of 3,272 to 1,501.
An observer scanning this data for the first time likely would conclude that this town of about 11,000 is quite the GOP stronghold.
But for some reason, all members of the local governing body – the township council – were Democrats. Republicans, at times, didn’t even field local candidates.
This looked like a pretty incongruous picture.
The entire township council – all five members – are now Republicans.
While this seems fitting given the town’s voting patterns, it is also a rather remarkable – or shall we say, stunning – local political development.
Individual politicians switch parties every so often. Look at Jeff Van Drew a few years ago.
However, it is uncommon for five elected officials to do so en masse. All have been elected, and in some cases reelected, as Democrats.
Joseph Pannullo, the township’s mayor, has not yet responded to a phone call. Nor has the man listed as chair of the township’s Democratic committee. Who knows? Maybe he’s not a Democrat anymore either.
Republicans, naturally, are thrilled. Here’s the take of county GOP chair Laura Ali.
“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. 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.”
She added, “This wouldn’t have been possible without the extraordinary working relationship between Hanover Township Mayor Ace
Gallagher and the local East Hanover government. I can’t thank Mayor Gallagher enough for his help in making this possible.”
Ali was not alone.
Many other GOP leaders chimed in with joyful comments, including state senators Joe Pennacchio and Anthony M. Bucco, Assemblyman Brian Bergen and even Bob Hugin, the state Republican chair. He said:
“I want to commend Mayor Joseph Pannullo, along with Council President Frank DeMaio, Jr., Councilwoman Carolyn Jandoli and Councilmen Brian Brokaw, Sr. and Michael Martorelli, for making a common sense choice that will best serve their constituents going forward. I also want to particularly thank Morris County GOP Chair Laura Ali for help facilitating a warm welcome to our new partners in fighting for greater affordability and against Trenton overreach.”
In a statement sent out by Morris Republicans, Pannullo said the change was in the best interest of the community.
Referencing the nastiness of today’s politics, the mayor added that the council “collectively determined this was the best course 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.”
What impact, if any, the party switch has down the road remains to be seen. Local representation aside, Democrats control the state.
Amalia Duarte, the Morris County Democratic chair, expressed disappointment at the events in East Hanover, but said “the real story” is that the county is trending more Democratic.
She said Democrats have steadily closed the registration gap in the county, which now gives Republicans a lead of only 4 percent.
“This trend is just going to continue,” she added. “They are stagnant. Democrats in Morris County have momentum, excitement and the future on our side.”
As for the immediate future, Ali said Morris Republicans plan a celebratory event next month to welcome the new Republicans from East Hanover.