Assemblymen Rob Clifton (R-Matawan) and Alex Sauickie (R-Jackson), who until very recently were party-switching State Sen. Sam Thompson (D-Old Bridge)’s running mates in the 12th legislative district, said today that they’re “disappointed” in Thompson’s decision to defect to Democrats after losing substantial party support for a fifth term.
“I’ve served with him for almost 12 years now, so I’m disappointed in the fact that he switched parties and he’ll be running as a Democrat,” Clifton said. “Other than that, we’re going to have to move forward and run our campaign. But it is sad, because he and I have served together for over a decade.”
“I’m surprised, and certainly disappointed to hear it,” Sauickie agreed. “I knew him to be a conservative, so to see him with the Democratic Party – it’s unfortunate.”
Instead, both assemblymen said they’ll support the Senate candidacy of Old Bridge Mayor Owen Henry, whom Sauickie called a “good man” and a “statesman.” Even before Thompson’s party switch, Henry was lining up support among Republican leaders in the 12th district concerned about the 87-year-old Thompson’s ability to serve another four-year term.
Thompson – a pro-life, pro-gun Trump supporter – is an odd fit for the Democratic Party in most ways, and it remains to be seen how he changes his ideology and votes going forward. Top Democrats, among them Gov. Phil Murphy, have reacted guardedly to Thompson’s party switch and stopped short of endorsing him for another term in the 12th district.
Even if he does eventually get their full support, Thompson faces a very uphill battle to win in the 12th district, which covers parts of Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, and Burlington Counties; the district backed Republican Jack Ciattarelli by 27 points in the 2021 gubernatorial election.
This story was updated at 2:20 p.m. with comment from Sauickie.