Politicians from both parties were left shocked after a long-time New Jersey Republican announced he was switching sides.
Senator Sam Thompson, 87, made the unexpected switch on Monday, leaving lawmakers on both sides surprised.
According to the New Jersey Globe, Thompson left his GOP peers due to calls from the party and local leaders for him to stand down due to his age.
The announcement by 87-year-old Republican Sen. Sam Thompson that he will run as a Democrat is just the latest sign that this year’s state legislative races are shaping up to be a bumpy ride. #NJDecides https://t.co/ozIEa0rHp4
— NJ Spotlight News (@NJSpotlightNews) February 15, 2023
The senator did not take these calls kindly, as he told the press how he felt about the situation, accusing the party leadership of ageism.
“I decided to do this because my party leadership had abandoned me,” Thompson told reporters.
“Do I want to stay with people that want to cut my throat like that?”
Thompson personally went after GOP leadership, especially Senate minority leader Steve Oroho, who he accused of not allowing him to say farewell to his former colleagues.
Oroho countered by saying that Thompson gave no warning for his sudden turn.
“It’s clear he made a unilateral decision to switch parties without talking to anyone from either side,” Oroho stated as reported by the Globe.
“This afternoon, Sen. Thompson became extremely agitated after he was denied entry to our budget committee pre-meeting in the Senate Republican caucus room. He didn’t seem to understand that it was inappropriate for him to try to join us after he announced he had become a Democrat.”
Despite his party switch, Thompson has assured his constituents that would not change.
“I am not a liberal; I’d put myself as a moderate conservative,” the octogenarian said.
“I will continue to vote the way that I vote — that is to say, from a moderate conservative position… I just got done meeting with the Democrats, and we didn’t seem to have any problems.”
While some Democrats are optimistic that Thompson will liberalize his voting record now that he has left the GOP, others merely see his turnaround as a cynical bid to keep power.
According to commentary by the New Jersey Monitor, the senator was facing a strong primary challenge from Old Bridge, New Jersey mayor Owen Henry, a favorite of the local leaders who want Thompson to step down.
Given some of Thompson’s policy stances, the Monitor pointed out that it may be difficult for Democrats to co-exist with Thompson in their caucus.
“He voted no on codifying abortion rights. He voted no on bail reform. He voted no on the recent bill restricting where people can carry guns. He voted no on early in-person voting. He voted no on the bill expanding job protections for temporary workers,” the Monitor author pointed out.
Thompson is also an outspoken supporter of former President Donald Trump, a stance many Democrats will not tolerate in the slightest.
Democrat New Jersey governor Phil Murphy has welcomed Thompson into the fold, stating that “the Democratic Party has always been a big tent party, and I welcome Senator Thompson to our ranks.”
However, the governor did not endorse him for his race.
“There is a process in each of the counties the senator represents by which a candidate must secure the nomination of his or her county party,” Murphy said.
“I wish the senator luck as he begins that process and know he will continue serving his constituents admirably as he enters this new chapter of public service.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.