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Penn. Democratic leader defects to GOP, cites Catholic faith as reason

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Caroline May
Political Reporter

The defection of a prominent Pennsylvania Democrat to the Republican Party is raising some eyebrows.

Jo Ann Nardelli, a state committeewoman and founding president of the Blair County Federation of Democratic Women, has switched her political affiliation to the GOP, citing her Catholic faith and President Obama’s embrace of gay marriage as reasons.

During a press conference last week, Nardelli cited President Obama’s recent announcement in support of gay marriage as a central reason for her defection, endorsed Mitt Romney for president and changed her party registration to Republican, The Altoona Mirror reported.

“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, a pro-life Democrat for more than 40 years, said at the Blair County Courthouse.

According to Politics PA, Nardelli continued to point to her Catholic faith as a major motivator in her letter of resignation to the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.

“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.”

The Mirror added that Blair County Republican Party Chairman A.C. Stickel welcomed Nardelli. Stickel emphasized Obama’s, and the Democratic Party’s, disconnect with blue collar values as a big part of the story.

“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 said.

While Nardelli claims her faith guided her away from the blue side of the aisle, Blair County Democratic Chairman Frank Rosenhoover cited another reason: Nardelli’s loss last year in a county commissioner election to current officeholder Ted Beam by 400 votes.

“Jo Ann Nardelli lost the election because she’s Jo Ann Nardelli,” Rosenhoover said.

In an interview with the National Catholic Register, Nardelli claimed to not know any Republicans. She asserted, like the party-switching Ronald Reagan in 1962, that the Democratic Party had strayed from values with which she could agree.

“I thought I could make a difference to change our party. It didn’t work,” she said. “I noticed that it’s been going more and more to the left. This is not my father’s party. I did not leave the party; the party left me.”

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