Hopewell Township Mayor Harvey Lester announced yesterday that he is switching party affiliations from Democrat to Republican mere months into his tenure as mayor of Hopewell Township.
With this switch, the balance has tipped in favor of Township Republicans with now three Republicans in the 5-person Committee, leaving former mayor Vanessa Sandom and newly elected committee member Kevin Kuchinksi the lone Democrats representing the Township.
“After several months of trying to inject new blood and new ideas into local Democratic orthodoxy, I feel that I am moving to a party where my kind of thinking outside the box will be successful,” said Mayor Lester.
From the Mercer County level, Assemblywoman and Mercer County Democratic Committee Chair Liz Muoio offered this statement to MercerMe about the change:
“Elected officials from like parties often disagree on specific issues,” Assemblywoman Liz Muoio told MercerMe. “The best case scenario is that they are able to settle their differences and come to an agreement. In some cases that is not possible and they cast differing votes. Party affiliation, however, is about far more than one issue or one vote. It represents a core group of beliefs. Mr. Lester used that party affiliation, and the accompanying hard work, support and votes of many Township Democrats, to win his elected office. His decision to now completely reject the party of those who worked so hard to ensure his election is truly disappointing.”
Locally, sentiments are similar. Ray Disch, Hopewell Township Municipal Chair offered this statement in reaction:
“I was disheartened to learn that Harvey Lester, who was elected two years ago with the strong support of the Hopewell Township Democratic Party, has decided to dishonor that election by switching parties and turning his back on the voters of Hopewell Township,” said Ray Disch. “Just this week he presided over a Township budget that promises the largest tax increase in over a decade, far in excess of any budget we have seen from Democratic leaders in Hopewell Township, and not the sort of thing we will accept from any candidate we will put forward in the November election.”
Mayor Lester summed up his reasons for the switch saying, “I believe in limiting development. Always have, always will. In the past, Democrats have represented that view, but following their massive Kooltronic-Pennytown scheme and more massive Scotch Road Town Center proposal, I see that local Republicans are currently the party holding the line on development. It’s about values, not labels.”
The switch comes on the heels of the New Jersey Supreme Court decision disbanding the New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing Association (COAH) and taking matters of municipal affordable housing obligations and enforcement in its own hands.