Rutherford mayor Joseph DeSalvo has switched parties and may seek re-election as a Democrat this year.
DeSalvo told the New Jersey Globe that some of his national views have changed over the years but that he doesn’t think political parties should play an important role in local government.
“I have always believed, locally for me, party affiliation doesn’t really matter. Democrat or Republican doesn’t make a difference,” DeSalvo said. “There is not a Democratic or Republican way to run your borough.”
The leading candidate for mayor on the Democratic side is council president Stephanie McGowan.
McGowan said that DeSalvo has not discussed his interest in running for re-election as a Democrat with local officials or party leaders.
“To this day the mayor hasn’t had a conversation about his party switch,” McGowan said, noting that the her Democratic colleagues, municipal chair or county committee members haven’t heard from DeSalvo either. “He chose to disclose it to whom he disclosed it. We were surprised.”
DeSalvo acknowledged that he has not sought support from his new party.
“I have not spoken to anybody,” he said. “The word is out in town. I wasn’t trying to hide it.”
Despite his new party affiliation, DeSalvo isn’t running away from the Republican president, Donald Trump.
“I believe a lot, not 100%, of what he’s done is good,” DeSalvo said of Trump.
DeSalvo said he voted for Trump in 2016 but has not decided who he would back for president next year.
“It depends. I have to see who else is running,” DeSalvo told the Globe.
The mayor was not ready to jump on the Cory Booker for president bandwagon either, even though the nearly every Democratic leader in the state – including McGowan – have endorsed the favorite-son candidate.
“I don’t know a lot about him,” DeSalvo said of Booker.
McGowan said that she will proudly vote against Trump next year.
She wants a president who will “share similar ideals.”
“I want someone who will represent the idea of building inclusive communities,” McGowan said. “Diversity is good”
DeSalvo and McGowan both said they have not made final decisions about running for mayor.
“We have six or seven weeks to get our papers ready,” DeSalvo said. Right now, I am in. I haven’t fully decided not to run.”
McGowan declined to close the door on DeSalvo becoming the Democratic nominee.
“I welcome a conversation with him,” the two-term councilwoman said.
Bergen County Democratic chairman Louis Stellato says Rutherford Democrats will decide their candidate for mayor in the June primary.
“Whatever way the municipal committee votes, I will acquiesce,” Stellato said.
DeSalvo acknowledged that he might have a hard time winning the support of the Rutherford Democratic organization.
“I’ve won off the line before,” the mayor said.