New Jersey state senator says he will leave the Republican Party to join the Democrats


TRENTON, NJ — New Jersey State Senator Samuel Thompson said Monday that he is leaving the Republican Party and plans to seek re-election this year as a Democrat.

Thompson, 87, said in a telephone interview that he decided to leave the Republican Party after party leaders questioned his fitness for office because of his age.

«The betrayal of so many of my friends, that was too much for me,» he said. “I am not leaving my party. The leadership of my party has left me”.

Thompson’s departure would extend the Democrats’ lead in the state Senate from 24 to 25 seats in the 40-member chamber.

Middlesex County Republican Chairman Rob Bengivenga said that while he considered Thompson a friend and mentor and wanted him to be part of the party’s future, leaders decided to support another candidate for the state Senate.

Samuel Thompson while running for re-election in New Jersey in 2003.
Brand. R Sullivan / AP File

“I hoped the Senator would embrace him and work together as a mentor and adviser for years to come,” he said in an emailed statement.

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement that he welcomed Thompson to the party and called him a tireless public servant.

Thompson, a former research scientist who served in the Army, said he plans to run for office in this year’s midterm elections. He said that unlike some legislators who work part-time as legislators and at the same time have other jobs, he works only as a legislator.

«It’s my life. It gives me something to do every day when I wake up to get there and help people. Is the alternative is to stay home and wait to die? I have to be active,» he said. «I think I’m doing a public service”.

Thompson, a supporter of former President Donald Trump, said the Trump presidency was a success. Asked how he could fit into the Democratic Party with that opinion, Thompson paused for a moment.

“Everyone is entitled to their own choices and what they are going to do,” he said.

Thompson represents Legislative District 12, which includes parts of Burlington, Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean counties.

All 120 seats in the Assembly and Senate are up for re-election this year. The primary is set for June, when Thompson could have faced a major challenger against him in the Republican Party if he had still run. It is unclear if Democrats will run a candidate against him in the party’s primary.

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