LINDEN – Mayor Richard Gerbounka, a one-time Democrat who turned independent in 2006, and four of the city’s councilmen endorsed Republican John McCain for president Monday. The move came on the eve of a McCain fundraising visit to the state.
“This election is not about Democrats or Republicans. It’s about electing the best man to lead us forward the next four years as the president of the United States. And the best man for that position is Senator John McCain,” said Gerbounka at a Monday press conference. “And I know from personal experience that the Linden voters are intelligent and sophisticated. Because in 2006, I ran for the mayor of this great city as an independent against a 30-year Democratic incumbent, and the voters chose the man, not the party.”
Councilmen Joe Harvanik, Robert Frazier, Bruce Howe – all independents – and Jack Sheehy, a Democrat, joined Gerbounka at the press conference expressing support for McCain.
Linden supported Democrat John Kerry by a 2-1 margin in the 2004 campaign and does not figure to be strategically important in the 2008 presidential campaign. Still, the Republican presidential campaign hopes to win the support of blue collar voters with the endorsement.
In 1980 and 1984, Democratic blue-collar swing voters crossed party lines to elect and then re-elect Republican Ronald Reagan to the presidency. For the last four presidential elections, however, New Jersey has gone Democratic.
“You’re going to see a lot more leaders like the members of the council and mayor who are coming out and saying in the end the presidency of the United States is beyond Republicans, Democrats or independents,” said State Sen. Bill Baroni (R-Hamilton), who heads up John McCain’s New Jersey presidential campaign. “It’s about who is going to be the best leader for our country.”
Recent polls suggest that Democrat Barack Obama still holds a significant lead over McCain in New Jersey, and Obama has raised more than twice as much money from the state as McCain.
Local Democratic leaders downplayed the endorsement, pointing to Gerbounka’s independent status.
Gerbounka declined to endorse candidates for the U.S. Senate race or any of the three congressional races Linden has a stake in. “Residents should make their own determination on congressional races,” the mayor said.
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