EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Despite their opposing tickets in last November's mayoral elections, Councilman Jim Wendell and Mayor Brad Cohen share the same vision for the redevelopment of the township and the desire to move East Brunswick forward. Tonight they became members of the same team.
Council Vice-President James Wendell, the 2016 Republican candidate for mayor and a lifelong member of the GOP, announced today that he is joining the Democratic Party.
“After long consideration, I have determined that my efforts to move our town forward would be better served by working in tandem with Mayor Brad Cohen, who has worked since his inauguration side by side with me, to improve the quality of life for East Brunswick’s families,” said Councilman Wendell. “At a time when partisanship is at an all-time high, Mayor Cohen and I are committed to serving as an example of what is possible when former opponents join together for the betterment of our community. I plan to continue my working relationship with Councilwoman Clark and Councilman Hughes. As a lifelong resident of East Brunswick, my decisions have always been based upon what is best for our town and not based on political considerations."
Wendell also used the opportunity to endorse the Democratic candidates running for Middlesex County Surrogate and the Board of Chosen Freeholders, as well as State Senator Patrick Diegnan and Democratic Assembly members Nancy Pinkin and Robert Karabinchak in the 18th Legislative District.
“It is clear to me that Senator Diegnan, Assemblywoman Pinkin and Assemblyman Karabinchak have worked diligently to stand up for the residents of our district against the ruinous policies of Governor Christie,” said Wendell. “I have worked with them during my time on the council in East Brunswick and know that they are best positioned to bring good jobs and economic development back to East Brunswick.”
With Wendell’s decision to switch parties, Democrats will now control both the mayor’s office and the majority on the township’s council.
At an event held by local Chairperson of the East Brunswick Democratic Organization attorney David Lonski, local elected officials and party supporters met to celebrate Wendell's move to the blue team. "What I do is about East Brunswick," said the Councilman. "Brad and I are going to do some wonderful things. When we debated during the elections, we were saying the same thing in different ways."
Democratic Committee Member Jeaninne Lonski mentioned her long friendship with Wendell and her growing respect for him during the planning board negotiations that may have placed hundreds of apartment units on Cranbury Road, the site of the revitalized Park Chateau. "I am glad to see people working together for the good of East Brunswick. There is too much divisiveness in politics today at every level," she said.
Wendell noted that making the change was not an easy decision and the switch involved making some "difficult" phone calls. What ultimately caused him to make the change, though, was the fact that "We are all fiscally conservative, and we have the same vision." He also realized the importance of having an organization behind a candidate to drive success, something he did not feel as a Republican in Middlesex County.
Councilwoman Camille Clark, who represents the Republican party along with Council President Michael Hughes commented, "I wish Jim the best in his endeavors to do what he feels is best for his constituents and for himself. It is unfortunate that he feels he cannot accomplish this as a Republican, working alongside the Democrats, but rather feels motivated to join Democratic ranks. That said, I am confident that we will continue to maintain a cordial working relationship."
Joining Wendell in in switch of allegiance was former East Brunswick Law Enforcement Officer Mark Csizmar, who also ran for town council as a Republican last year. "I am not a Democrat or a Republican. I am an EB guy," said the former DARE officer and PBA negotiator.
State Senator Patrick Diegnan also celebrated the new Democrats: "I have trouble watching television today. There is so much political conflict. We all really have so much more in common than you would think. A day like this charges my batteries."