East Hanover Mayor Joseph Pannullo and all four members of the township council will switch from Democratic to Republican, marking a complete party flip in the township of 11,105 people, the New Jersey Globe has confirmed.
Joining Pannullo in switching parties are Council President Frank DeMaio, Jr, Councilwoman Carolyn Jandoli, and Councilmen Brian Brokaw, Sr. and Michael Martorelli.
“Municipal leaders have a responsibility to best represent their constituents, and it is our belief this change of party is in the best interest of the community,” said Pannullo. “As the nastiness, rhetoric, and social media vitriol of national politics continues to infiltrate local governance, we 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 to be our local priorities. Every decision my administration makes is about putting East Hanover first; this is no different.”
Morris County GOP Chair Laura Marie Ali credited Hanover Mayor Ace Gallagher for convincing the East Hanover officials to switch parties.
“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,” Ali said. “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.”
The East Hanover Republican muncipal chair, former Councilwoman Sue Tietjen, also welcomed the new Republican officholders.
“We will work together moving East Hanover forward,” she said.
Assistant Senate Minority Leader Joseph Pennacchio (R-Montville), whose new legislative district will include East Hanover, saluted Ali for her role in the five-seat flip and said he is looking forward to working with Team Pannullo.
“Whether you are a lifelong Republican or a transplanted Democrat such as me, you are immediately welcomed and accepted without hesitation,” said Pennacchio. “I look forward to working with my new Republican friends to make East Hanover an even better place to live.”
Senate Minority Whip Anthony M. Bucco (R-Boonton), who has the votes to lead the Senate GOP caucus next year, called the switch of Pannullo and the councilmembers “a major win for the Republican Party and shows how out of touch and extreme the Democrat party has become.”
“We welcome these well-respected local leaders to our party as we continue to expand our party’s reach,” Bucco stated.
Another lawmaker who hopes to represent East Hanover for the next two years, Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-Denville), said the Morris GOP “has incredible momentum, and this is a great indication of our progress. ”
Pannullo has been mayor for sixteen years. After nine years as a councilman, he unseated Republican Mayor William Agnellino by roughly 400 votes in 2007. Pannullo was the lone Democrat on the council at the time, but two GOP incumbents were also defeated that year, giving Democrats a 3-2 majority.
Despite local dominance by Democrats in recent years, East Hanover gave Republican Jack Ciattarelli 74% of the vote against Gov. Phil Murphy in 2021. Donald Trump carried East Hanover with 66% in 2020, and GOP congressional candidate Paul DeGroot won 68% there in his 2022 campaign against Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair).
But Brokaw was re-elected in 2022 by 46 votes against Republican Angelo Tedesco, Jr., a former councilman.
Pannullo, DeMaio and Martorelli are up for re-election this year.
The township administrator, Joseph Tempesta, is the Republican mayor of West Caldwell.
“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 commonsense choice that will best serve their constituents going forward,” said Republican State Chairman Bob Hugin. “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.”
This story was updated at 7:06 PM with additional comment.