Assemblyman Joe Howarth (R-Evesham) will not join State Sen. Dawn Addiego (D-Evesham) in the Democratic party, the assemblyman told the New Jersey Globe Thursday.
“Absolutely,” Howarth said when asked if he would stay on with the Republican party after days of silence following Addiego’s defection on Monday. “No questions asked.”
Howarth will also be running for reelection with the party’s support.
“With the full support of our caucus, he is running,” Assemblyman Holly Schepisi, standing next to Howarth, told the New Jersey Globe. “He is running as a republican, and we are very excited to support him.”
Some question remains behind the delay of Howarth’s announcement.
Sources said that he was actively being courted by Democrats in the days before and after Addiego left the Republican Party, but state Democrats are said to eventually have realized the difficulty of winning the Burlington County Democratic Organization line for Howarth, who has long been engaged as a Republican in the district.
Howarth said he was simply too shocked by Addiego’s defection to issue a statement reaffirming his allegiance to the Republican party, even in the face of press reports about the party’s courting him.
“There’s a lot of reasons why. I didn’t know what to expect or what to do. You know what it’s like when you lose one of your best friends and confidants? You just want to go in a hole and hide,” Howarth said. “It took me 24 hours just to get over the fact that this is occurring. We were inseparable for 10 years. We were very good friends.”
Howarth said he also had to deal with staffing issues.
Before Addiego’s defection, she, Howarth and Assemblyman Ryan Peters (R-Lumberton) shared a staff and office space. Addiego’s defection has complicated that somewhat, and sources have told the New Jersey Globe that five of the district’s staffers will join her, though that situation may have changed since it became clear Howarth would stay on with the Republican party.
Peters faced similar questions about whether or not he would defect, but he put that speculation to rest Monday night, hours after Addiego announced her party switch. Like many in the Republican party, Howarth found out about Addiego’s defection via press release. The district’s staffers, he said, were also not told beforehand.
It’s not yet how much of an effect the delay of Howarth’s announcement will have on his relationship with Republicans in Trenton and the eighth legislative district, but he said his caucus members welcomed him with open arms when the legislature convened for its voting sessions Thursday.
“I’ll tell you what, I had more support and reaching out from people in my caucus that said ‘stay the course and stay strong,’ and you know what? When I walked in today, I got hugs from everybody, and I got handshakes from everybody,” Howarth said.