HOLLIDAYSBURG - One of Blair County's prominent Democrats, Jo Ann Nardelli, said Wednesday she has switched her voter registration to Republican because she can no longer support Democratic initiatives like same sex marriage.
"As the Democratic Party has taken the stand for same-sex marriage, then I must make a stand on my faith that marriage is between a man and a woman. God's principles for life never change. His guidelines, given in Scripture, produce fruitful lives when you follow them," Nardelli said while making the announcement of her party switch in the Blair County Courthouse.
She said she was a member of the Democratic party for 40 years.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
Jo Ann Nardelli said Wednesday she switched to the Republican party because her religious convictions won’t allow her to support Democrats’ stance on gay marriage.
Her announcement, and pledge to support the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, was welcomed by Blair County Republican Party Chairman A.C. Stickel.
"[She] explained that her decision has resulted from years of realization that President Obama and the modern-day Democrat party no longer fights for the blue collar central Pennsylvania values she holds dear," Stickel said.
"She says the president has pandered to left wing ideological interests. She said that his recent flip-flop on gay marriage was the last straw for her," Stickel explained.
An hour after the Nardelli announcement, Blair County Democratic Chairman Frank Rosenhoover was leading a group of marchers through Hollidaysburg to protest proposed education cuts in the 2012-13 Pennsylvania state budget. Rosenhoover raised the possibility that Nardelli was upset about her failure to win a seat on the board of county commissioners last year.
"Jo Ann Nardelli lost the election because she's Jo Ann Nardelli," Rosenhoover said.
Nardelli ran as a Democrat but lost by more than 400 votes to present Commissioner Ted Beam.
Rosenhoover said that support for same-sex marriage is not part of the Democratic platform, despite Obama and Vice President Joe Biden's recent statements in support of it.
Nardelli's switch was supported by her husband, Mike, who said he, too, has turned in his Democrat registration card.
He described himself as a "Cambria County Democrat," meaning his roots in the party stem from his middle class working background and as a union member.
He said being raised as a Democrat in a working family was "always about faith and values."
"I retired from the railroad. I come from labor," he said.
Monsignor Anthony Little of St. Patrick's Parish in Newry was with Nardelli during her announcement. He said Nardelli consulted him before making her decision. He said what Nardelli did "takes a lot of courage."
Nardelli has given up her position on the State Democratic Committee and her positions as vice president of the Democratic State Committee Women's Caucus and the State Committee Executive Board.
She founded the Blair County Federation of Democratic Women and the Women's Equality Coalition of Blair County.
Nardelli said that when she took a seat on the state Democratic Committee, she began to notice that party values were "not exactly the values of my father's party. Nonetheless, I held on to my pro-life faith regardless of fellow Democratic principles.
"The president stated that the world is evolving. ... Well, maybe I have evolved, too, in a way that gives me the courage to stand up for my beliefs and morals."
Nardelli said she heard Biden announce his support for same-sex marriage two weeks ago while eating breakfast.
"My heart sort of sank. ... This pushes me to the other side," she said.