A Republican mayor from Ocean County has endorsed Democratic Governor Phil Murphy for re-election, the first GOP endorsement in his bid for a second term.
“I admire his leadership. He is sincere. I believe he is someone of high integrity,” said Seaside Heights Mayor Anthony E. Vaz. “Governor Murphy has been very good for our community.”
The endorsement occurred on Friday at a fundraiser for Murphy in Seaside Heights organized by businessmen from the amusement industry.
Edward McGlynn, who served as chief of staff to Republican Gov. Thomas Kean from 1985 to 1990, was also at the event. McGlynn is a lobbyist for the New Jersey Amusement Association and general counsel to Jenkinson’s Boardwalk.
Vaz described himself as a “good Republican” and a “big (Chris) Christie supporter” who voted for then-Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno against Murphy in 2017.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to support this governor,” said Vaz, a self-described conservative. “But he has become a solid supporter of Seaside Heights.”
Vaz said that Murphy and his staff kept in constant communication with him as he sought to keep his resort community afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.
Less than 3,000 people live in Seaside Heights, but in the summer the population swells to more than 30,000. It was the setting of the MTV series, Jersey Shore.
The borough suffered catastrophic losses during Superstorm Sandy, when most of the boardwalk and the rides on it crumpled into the Atlantic Ocean. It was also the site of a catastrophic ten-alarm fire at the Funtown Pier one year later.
Vaz noted that he and the governor come from different ideologies, but that he is crossing party lines with his endorsement because the two have worked together.
“It developed into a friendship, even though our philosophies are way different,” Vaz said. “I truly believe he is a good man.”
Vaz told the New Jersey Globe that he has informed local Republicans of his decision.
“It has nothing to do with Jack (Ciattarelli),” he said.
The Seaside Heights mayor is the first Republican to formally endorse Murphy.
Eight years ago, 20 Democratic mayors and more than 30 other Democratic officeholders endorsed Chris Christie for a second term.
Murphy received just 35% of the vote in Seaside Heights four year ago, and the borough gave President Donald Trump 62% of the vote last year.