- Associated Press - Friday, June 10, 2016

HACKENSACK, N.J. (AP) - Two Republican officials in New Jersey switched political parties over what they said are racist comments made by presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Hackensack Mayor John Labrosse and Deputy Mayor Kathleen Canestrino filed a change of party affiliation to independents on Thursday with the Bergen County Board of Elections, they announced in a news release.

“The divisive and racist statements that Trump keeps making are insulting to many of our people and completely unacceptable. We don’t want a young student in one of our schools hearing these things and believing that their own elected officials are supporting these types of statements,” the pair said in a statement.

Census figures show about 17,000 of the city’s nearly 44,000 residents in 2014 were foreign-born. Nearly 13,000 spoke Spanish at home, according to the data.

Labrosse and Canestrino said there was not a specific comment that influenced their decision. They say it was the general tone of the campaign.

Their decision to switch part affiliations came days after the state’s top Republican, Gov. Chris Christie, refused to criticize Trump’s comments about an American-born federal judge of Mexican heritage and said that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is not a racist.

“Those are Donald’s opinions and he has the right to express them, the same way anybody else has the right to express their views regarding how they’re treated in the civil or criminal courts in this country,” Christie said.

Trump said that U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel cannot judge him fairly in lawsuits against Trump University because he is of Mexican heritage and Trump has pledged to build a wall with Mexico. Trump later said in a statement that his comments were “misconstrued” as an attack against people of Mexican heritage.

Even though Labrosse and Canestrino were registered Republicans, Hackensack selects council members in a nonpartisan election.

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