Morris Plains honors Memorial Day 2021
The heavy rain didn’t stop Morris Plains from honoring Memorial Day 2021with a remembrance ceremony and a parade.
Chris Pedota, Morristown Daily Record
Many voters in the Morris County-dominated 26th Legislative District may be surprised to learn that for the first time, Republicans have a formal county line endorsing two candidates for the state Assembly.
They may also be surprised to see that longtime GOP incumbents Jay Webber and BettyLou DeCroce do not share that favored line.
DeCroce is running on her own after the Morris County Republican Committee voted the county line on the primary ballot to Webber and Christian Barranco, a former Pompton Lakes councilman now living in Jefferson.
That leaves DeCroce running on her own line, at least in her home county. So is Morris County Commissioner Tom Mastrangelo, making for an unusual four-horse race.
Where does this leave BettyLou DeCroce?
DeCroce, however, has collected a bevy of endorsements from elected leaders in the district and was awarded the county line in Passaic County, where she will be paired with Barranco, who also nabbed the county line.
The Essex County Republican Committee, meanwhile, awarded its single Assembly endorsement to DeCroce. She will run on the line there with Jack Cittarelli for governor and District 26 Senator Joseph Pennacchio.
District 26 is comprised of Butler, Jefferson, Kinnelon, Lincoln Park, Montville, Morris Plains, Parsippany-Troy Hills and Rockaway Township in Morris County; Fairfield, North Caldwell, West Caldwell and Verona in suburban Essex County and West Milford in Passaic County.
DeCroce shook off the endorsement loss in Morris County, saying she “will not stop fighting for the families of the 26th district just because the party insiders and bosses say so.”
“I have spent my political career fighting for conservative principles and values and am humbled by the overwhelming support my campaign has received,” DeCroce said. “I look forward to winning this primary on Tuesday and continuing to fight against radical Phil Murphy and his Trenton Democrats.”
What about Jay Webber, Joseph Pennacchio?
Webber also is well-known for his conservative credentials and is a frequent critic of Murphy in the Statehouse and on social media.
Pennacchio finds himself in the middle of an incumbent battle in a district that has not changed its all-Republican legislative roster in nearly a decade.
“I’m on the record supporting both Webber and DeCroce, but any of those four candidates would be far superior to what the Democrats put up,” Pennacchio said.
Why does Morris County have a primary line?
Rather than bemoan the committee breaking up the two incumbents, Pennaccgio said the primary slate is evidence that the committee’s decision to begin awarding a county line is working in the party’s favor.
“The line is working out exactly as promised,” he said. “There were concerns when they were first debating it that the line was sort-of the ‘Incumbency Protection Act.’ That turned out to be not true. Anybody with a little shoe leather, time and effort knocking on doors was able to defeat an incumbent.”
“It’s a fair fight now,” Morris County Republican Committee vice-chairman Peter King said after the committee voted to institute the county line in February.
“The line was instituted to empower the grassroots of the party and Chris connected with those grassroots,” Webber said. “It was an impressive convention campaign and he deserved to win. I’m looking forward to serving with him in the Assembly.”
Webber said he expects Barranco will win but should he lose, he expects “The Republicans to come together to beat the Democrats in the fall.”
A long history for Webber, DeCroce
DeCroce was appointed in 2012 to the seat of her late husband, Alex DeCroce, the Assembly’s Republican leader from 2003 until he died after collapsing in the Statehouse age 75 on Jan. 9, 2012. She was elected to her first full term in 2013.
Webber was first elected to the Assembly in 2007 and also served as New Jersey Republican Committee chairman from 2009 to 2011.
Webber failed in his bid for Congress in the 2018 midterms, losing to Democrat Mikie Sherrill in a race to assume the seat vacated by the retiring Rodney Frelinghuysen.
In a rare public statement since he left office, Frelinghuysen endorsed DeCroce.
“Goodness knows that women in the political arena work twice as hard to get elected than most men,” Frelinghuysen wrote. “BettyLou is one of them, with a professional background in municipal government before representing us in Trenton. She fights for all of us, and we need her there, again, because she is fearless.”
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Mastrangelo, a self-employed information technology consultant, is in his fourth three-year term as a Morris County Commissioner.
Barranco in 2013 founded and directed the New Jersey Rough Riders Society, a PAC “supporting Republican candidates and issues at all levels of New Jersey government.” In 2019, he founded the political social media site “Square Deal for NJ.”
“We shall see come Tuesday how effective it is having the endorsement of the party behind the candidate,” Pennacchio said.
William Westhoven is a local reporter for DailyRecord.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @wwesthoven