Democratic party activists will see her sequined dresses at state committee meetings no more. Jo Ann Nardelli, President and founder of the Blair County Federation of Democratic Women and a state committeewoman, has defected to the GOP. The final straw? President Obama’s support for gay marriage.
In a letter of resignation to the PA Democratic party, Nardelli cited her Catholic faith.
“I respect all of you and all that I have achieved in the past. Due to personal matters and faith beliefs at this time, it is only fair to resign,” she wrote. “I will miss you all very much as you are all a part of my family; however, it is time to move forward with my life in a direction that is more in line with my faith.”
She announced her decision at a press conference at the courthouse in Hollidaysburg Wednesday where, according to Blair GOP Chair A.C. Stickel, she explicitly cited the President’s recent announcement of support for gay marriage. She also opposes abortion rights.
At the press conference, Nardelli endorsed Mitt Romney and immediately afterwards changed her voter registration.
Nardelli matches the profile of voters who have at times given the President heartburn: culturally conservative, working class and somewhat rural – aka Reagan Democrats.
She’s been an active Democrat for two decades and in 2008 was an area leader for Obama’s campaign. In addition to the BCFDW, she served on the PA Democratic State Committee Executive Board, was Vice President of the PA State Women’s Caucus and was 1st Vice President of the PA State Federation of Democratic Women (she had been in line for the presidency of that organization in 2014).
She had served on state committee for 6 years and was easy to spot at meetings thanks to her affinity for sequins.
She also ran twice, unsuccessfully, for Blair County Commissioner.
It’s that last part of her bio that some Dems blame for her switch. As much or more than just ideology, local politics and personalities may also have influenced her decision.
A source close to the local Democratic party who declined to speak on the record said that tensions had grown between Nardelli and the party; she has accused local leadership of undermining her campaign in 2011.
“I don’t know what the beef is,” said Blair County Democratic Chairman Frank Rosenhoover. “We supported them both [the two Democratic Commissioners candidates], we gave them both money,” and “equal fervor.”
Rosenhoover, who said he hadn’t spoken with Nardelli since November, suggested her move was a surprise but wouldn’t affect the party.
“It will have no impact on the Democratic Party in Blair County or the re-election of Barack Obama.”
But that didn’t keep the local GOP from crowing about their new recruit.
“Jo Ann is just one of many Democrats who I believe will find that Romney is the best choice for Pennsylvania and our values,” said Stickel. “We welcome Jo Ann to our Party.”