The website for the Burlington County Democratic Committee contains the smiling faces of would-be Democratic Party allies Tim Tyler and George Kotch, respectively the county clerk and surrogate who today scratched the D’s off their public plaftforms and affixed R’s as they announced that they would be joining the GOP.
It’s a forgiveable websight oversight, obviously – not even an oversight. The men just made their announcement. But it’s tougher to choke down the gaping blank space underneath the words “Contact us,” or the news section that features that stop-the-presses gem: “Adler awards Korean Veteran Purple Heart.”
Today, Republicans lapped up the Burlington County oxygen with relish.
“I don’t view my job as Surrogate through a partisan lens,” explained Kotch, who in 2006 became the first Democrat elected countywide in decades.
“The reason I am switching parties is that I find myself more closely aligned with the governing approach practiced by the Burlington County Republican Freeholders in terms of taxes and spending, than I do with the county Democrats.”
On the Democratic side, at least early, with two-thirds of the party’s incumbents bailing in the face of a coming election, the reply was silence, and Tyler – now in full-bore transformer mode and in the absence of forthcoming voices from the chambers of his former party – attempted to explain why, attributing his own move to the County Democratic Party “falling apart organizationally and losing its way on the issues” since he won election in November 2008.
“I have always considered myself a fiscal conservative and approached every decision I’ve made in elected office with the taxpayers’ best interest as my primary focus,” said Tyler of Fieldsboro. “During my time as County Clerk, it’s become clear to me that the Republican Freeholders and I share that approach, whereas the county Democrats do not. The corresponding disintegration of the county Democratic Party from an organizational standpoint has also been deeply disappointing. At the end of the day, the party I ran with in 2008 and the party that exists today have very little in common.”
Beaming with the victory was Burlington County GOP Chairman Bill Layton who said, “George and Tim share our commitment to fiscally conservative government and I’m happy to have them join our team.”
Burlington County Democratic Chairman Joseph Andl let the din of chest-thumping reach a fever pitch before he clanged the cymbals.
“We could see this coming,” said Andl, who stepped into a cratered Democratic structure last June after an intra-party fight depleted all players.
“Since I became chairman, there’s been talk. It’s not a surprise. The rumors have been out there for years. Look, when you lose anybody – it hurts, but the party is moving forward.”
The chairman disputed the GOP’s assertion that they’ve utterly outmuscled the Democrats in Burlington.
“We came within 4,000 votes of winning a freeholder seat last year and we picked up more municipal seats than the GOP did last year – we picked up six or seven seats,” Andl said. “I don’t know what kind of deal they struck (to get Tyler and and Kotch into the GOP saddle), but it obviously was not in the best interest of the public.”
As for the website, Andl admitted it’s not exactly a humming enterprise, but at least it’s new and set up for add-ons in the coming months.
“We don’t have a headquarters right now,” he said. “Last year, we teamed up with Adler campaign, and so we’re still searching for a headquarters, but we’ll have candidates.”
While Andl explicated, New Jersey Republican State Committee Chairman Samuel S. Raia chipped in a quote via email.
“I would like to welcome Burlington County Clerk Timothy Tyler and Surrogate George T. Kotch into the Republican Party,” said the chairman, in one of his few public statements since taking office a month ago.
“Under the strong leadership of Governor Christie over the past few months four elected officials have become members of the Republican Party and we open our arms to any other Democrats who would like to join our ranks. Over the coming months I look forward to working with both of the newest Republican elected officials to support our governor and great party.”