One of the strangest sagas in recent New Jersey political history is over, Save Jerseyans.
Strangest and saddest.
On Monday, New Jersey Globe reported that State Senator Sam Thompson (D-12) had decided to NOT seek reelection this year after changing parties two weeks ago precisely because he was no longer the frontrunner for renomination. Thompson – who is 87 years old – cited his wife’s advanced age (she’s 91) for his decision, but that’s obviously bullshit. It was Thompson’s own age that had emerged as an issue ahead of his party switch. Mayor Owen Henry (R-Old Bridge) now finds himself with a clear path to victory in November though Thompson’s ability to win as a Democrat in the solidly-red district was seriously in doubt.
Thompson has worked in Trenton in one capacity or another since the 1970s. Heading into this cycle, LD12 Republican leaders were actively discussing moving beyond Thompson given the senator’s advanced age and the growing perception that he had allowed key local relationships to go to seed in recent years.
The writing was clearly on the wall for the now ex-Republican, but Thompson wanted to hold onto power. Really, really badly. So much so, in fact, that he was willing to switch parties without giving anyone a heads up, abandon long-time allies and supporters, and even reportedly change his position on abortion (!) in a ridiculously embarrassing attempt to cling onto his job for a few more years. I’m told he literally cried to at least one fellow legislator over alleged ill treatment by party leaders before defecting (eww), and then he threw a hissy fit when he was denied access to a GOP caucus meeting after joining the Democrats (sad!). A two-week legacy-destroying meltdown and for… what?
Ironically, in the end, Thompson’s behavior validated the criticism which he vociferously insisted was unfair: that he slipping and deserved a primary.
It didn’t need to end this way. Thompson could’ve retired with grace and spent his remaining years as an elder GOP statesman collecting accolades and honors on the rubber chicken circuit (which is something he apparently valued? Bless his soul). After the last two week, Sam Thompson is just another Trenton has-been mere months away from being unceremoniously discarded. Democrats never respected him. Republicans now rightly loathe him. No one will miss him.
Politicians take note: you’re renting your seat from the people. Forget it for a second and you can eviscerate a lifetime of work in a single fortnight.