The Democratic mayor and two Democratic councilmembers in Monroe Township are switching parties, putting Republican control of the Gloucester County municipality of 37,117 people in play for the November midterm elections.
Mayor Richard DiLucia says he will seek re-election to a second term as a Republican in the county’s second-biggest municipality. He is expected to face Democrat Gregory Wolfe, the council president.
Councilwoman Katherine Falcone will also switch parties and will run for re-election as a Republican. Councilman Steven McKinney, whose seat is not up until 2024, is also become a Republican. That will change the Democratic council majority from 6-1 to 4-3.
The Monroe party switch comes as Republicans gear up for a bid to take control of the Gloucester County Board of Commissioners for the first time since 1986, and follows last year’s seismic shift after powerful Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Gloucester Democrat, lost his Senate seat to Republican Edward Durr (R-Swedesboro).
DiLucia told the New Jersey Globe that he’s grown disillusioned with Gloucester County Democrats over the last few years and that he voted for Republican gubernatorial nominee Jack Ciattarelli and other GOP candidates in 2021.
“I was a Democrat since I’m 18-years-old. I[‘m still a labor guy,” stated DiLucia “I don’t like the people I’m running against.”
The mayor cited accomplishments during his first term, including improved recreational services, and an extensive road paving project, while keeping the town affordable.
“I’ve been able to hold the line of taxes for five years, including my time as council president. I’ll be able to do zero (percent increase again).
Monroe is a politically competitive town that has elected predominately Democrats to local office for more than 30 years. DiLucia will be the first GOP mayor since George Ruch left office in 1994.
Ciattarelli carried Monroe by 9 points last year. State Sen. Fred Madden (D-Washington Township) lost by 401 votes to a Republican with no money, Stephen Pakradooni, and two Democratic incumbents lost Monroe by over 700 votes in the Assembly race. Monroe went for Republican candidates for sheriff and county commissioner.
Joe Biden won Monroe by 226 votes, 49.8%-48.7%. U.S. Senator Cory Booker received 50.3% and Rep. Donald Norcross took in 51.3%. Republicans picked up the Ward 4 council seat that year, with Chelsea Valcourt, then a 21-year-old Rowan University student, defeated incumbent Joe Marino by 58 votes.
But Democrats in Monroe have long been splintered, with a history of divisive primaries that apparently did not affect the party’s success in the general election. Another Democrat, Mary Duffy, ousted incumbent Jack Luby in the 1998 primary.
A former AFSCME Local 1099 vice president and South Jersey AFSCME area director, DiLucia spent ten years as a councilman before ousting Mayor Daniel Teefy by a 47%-40% margin in the 2018 Democratic primary. DiLucia had the organization line.
DiLucia says he expects more Democrats to join him in the switch.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg, “he said. “A lot of people have said they are going to follow me. It will be considerable.”
Another incumbent, Democrat Patrick O’Reilly, will see re-election on a ticket with Wolfe, human resources director Denise Liszewski Adams and Don Heverly, an organizer with the International Association of Iron Workers, the union headed by former Senate President Steve Sweeney.
DiLucia contends that he would have won the backing of the Monroe Democratic organization had he sought re-election as a Democrat, but said he wasn’t certain Madden, the Gloucester County Democratic chairman, would have given him the organization line.