Republicans are denying party support to Philipsburg Mayor Todd Tersigni and are backing Councilman Randy Piazza, Jr. to replace him on the GOP organization line in the June mayoral primary election.
To keep his seat, Tersigni is widely expected to switch parties and seek re-election as a Democrat.
This marks a return to the Democratic Party for Tersigni, who served two terms as a councilman as a Democrat and ran as an independent candidate for mayor, unseating Democratic Mayor Steven Ellis as a Republican in 2019 by a 55%-41% margin.
Warren County Commissioner James Kern III, a Republican, posted on social media that Piazza would be his party’s candidate for mayor.
“He is a man of integrity and unwavering dedication,” Kern said. “Please join me in supporting Randy this upcoming year.”
Thomas “Reggie” Regrut, a former Green Party candidate for Warren County freeholder in 2000 who became a Democrat and was a Joe Biden delegate in 2020, was critical of Tersigni’s motive to join the GOP after Donald Trump’s presidential election and not ready to support another party switch by his mayor.
“I don’t want him back. He’s a Republican,” said Regrut, a county committeeman in Phillipsburg. “He can call himself a Democrat, but he’s done nothing to show that he is. “I asked him to denounce Donald Trump, but he never did. I don’t think he knows what he is.”
In heavily Republican Warren County, Phillipsburg is a swing town. Phil Murphy won it by 68 votes in 2017, but Jack Ciattarelli beat him by 149 in 2021. Tom Kean, Jr. won Phillipsburg by 23 votes in 2022, but Tom Malinowski had a 72-vote plurality in 2020 and beat incumbent Leonard Lance there by 23 votes in 2018. Also in 2018, GOP U.S. Senate candidate Bob Hugin won Phillipsburg by 14 votes.
Phillipsburg politics has been a contact sport in recent years.
In 2021, a grand jury indicted Republican Councilman Frank McVey for threatening to blackmail Tersigni in a bid to serve as council president. McVey, a former New Jersey State Police captain, resigned from the council and dropped his re-election campaign. The case is still pending.
Tersigni may have done it twice, but party switches are not uncommon in Phillipsburg. Four years ago, Democratic Councilman Mark Lutz switched parties after losing a Democratic mayoral primary. And Gloria Decker, a former Warren County Democratic chair in the 1970s who became state lottery director under Gov. Byrne, switched parties in the 1990s and became mayor of Phillipsburg.
Tersigni did not immediately return an 11:35 AM call seeking comment.
Phillipsburg produced New Jersey’s last Democratic governor from Western New Jersey: in 1953, two years after losing re-election to the State Senate, Robert Meyner won his first of two statewide campaigns.