A dozen Republicans, including the sitting mayors of Florham Park and Hanover, endorsed Democrat Sen. Richard Codey Tuesday in his re-election bid, a move that drew fire from the Republican Party.
"Unbelievable," said Morris County Republican Committee Chairman John Sette.
Codey is is campaigning for the first time in towns outside his Essex stronghold. The new district straddles parts of Essex and Morris counties and includes several Republican enclaves. William Eames of Whippany in the November general election.
"I am honored and humbled that these Republican officials have enough faith in me to ," Codey said at the event at the Hanover Marriott. "These Republican officials endorsing me today know that when you are in office you must put party labels aside and put the people first."
Eames was unavailable Tuesday. But the Republican Assembly candidates opposing incumbents John McKeon and Mila Jasey issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon:
“Supporting the same Trenton politicians who are responsible for our economic meltdown will not fix the mistakes of the past nor continue the momentum toward responsible spending, lower taxes and new jobs," said Lee Holtzman, a resident of Livingston, who is running with Chatham Mayor Nicole Hagner.
"Our opponents have spent decades ruining our state and it’s time for a different direction,” Holtzman said.
Codey is a former governor, following the exit of then-Gov. James E. McGreevey. He has served in the state Senate since 1982, and was Senate President from 2004 to 2009.
Sette, the Morris County Republican Committee Chairman, said he was "very disappointed" by the Republican support.
"As long as I've been a Republican, we did not endorse a Democrat," he said. "Some of these Republicans are members of the county committee. They should resign."
Codey said the cross-party endorsement is a reflection of the nasty, discordant level of political discussion that has dominated Trenton and Washington in recent months.
He said the notion that members of Congress were willing to shut down government over the federal or willing to withhold federal disaster aid over politically motivated budget issues is a reflection "of a sorry state of affairs."
What's missing, he said, is an understanding of the depth of the problems facing regular people in a bad economy, or the compassion to put politics aside and help those whose homes and businesses were lost in the recent flooding caused by .
"It's bad out there. So many are lacking work. We need leaders to show compassion," Codey said. "Our governor lacks it, and even (President) Obama needs to show more."
Hagner, though, the Republican mayor running for Assembly, denounced the support by her fellow GOP members.
“Any endorsement of our opponents is an endorsement of the 115 tax increases that took $31 billion out of taxpayer pockets and killed more than 155,000 jobs last decade. We will work to create a stable economic environment that won’t fleece taxpayers and put New Jersey back to work,” Hagner said.
Codey is known in Morris County for his efforts to aid the patients at Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in Parsippany, including the effort to force the state to install air conditioning in residential units during a very hot summer.
Those connections, the Republican supporters said, led to their endorsement.
"I admire his body of work with those suffering from mental illnesses, his work with children that have special needs and for woman who suffer with post partum depression," said Hanover Mayor John Sheridan said.
Sheridan also said Codey provided leadership and stability when it was needed, following McGreevey' resignation over a homosexual affair.
"He took over as governor at a very stressful time in our state's history. He brought the state back from the terrible embarrassment that we all were affected by and lived with," Sheridan said.
Sheridan; Florham Park Mayor Scott Eveland; Chatham Councilman William O'Connor; Sal Iannacone, former Hanover mayor; Jack Conway, a former Florham Park councilman; William Agnellino, a former Hanover mayor; and Patrick Pelosi of East Hanover, a member of Gov. Chris Christie's education transition team, joined former NFL player Tony Siragusa of Florham Park at the event.
Codey was governor when the New York Jets agreed to build their headquarters and training facility in Florham Park. Today that facility generates $8 million in state income taxes, he said.
Eveland said he is a Republican and believes in Republican values but said, "I put Florham Park first."
Siragusa said that Codey was a "straight-shooter. We need good people in politics."
Codey said the issues in the campaign are not related to his Tea Party opponent, but to getting the state's economy moving again. He also said event this is about the fall election for Senate, "not 2013," a reference to the next New Jersey's governor's election.
Codey was also won support from Essex County officials: Joe DeBellis, former Caldwell councilman, Essex Fells Mayor Ed Abbot, Mike Cecere, former Essex Fells councilman, and Richard Reynolds, former Roseland councilman.
In the June primary, Codey, who was unopposed, received 7,605 total votes, and 1,502 in Morris County.
Eames, who defeated William Sullivan of Essex Fells in the Republican primary, received 3,705 votes, 2,889 of which came from Morris County.
Following redistricting, the 27th District now includes Caldwell, Chatham Township, Essex Fells, East Hanover, Florham Park, Hanover, Harding, Livingston, Maplewood, Madison, Millburn, Roseland, South Orange, and West Orange.