Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce (R-Parsippany) has lost her re-election race to former Pompton Lakes Councilman Christian Barranco.
The contest saw schisms form between the 26th district’s Republican county organizations. Morris County, which accounts 78% of the district’s GOP primary voters, awarded its first-ever line to Barranco and Assemblyman Jay Webber, who won his spot on the general election ballot without much trouble Tuesday.
The assemblywoman trailed Barranco by 488 votes with virtually no ballots uncounted. She earned 6,370 votes to his 6,858. Webber ran a clear first with 9,968 votes, and Mastrangelo’s 5,743 votes put him in last place.
DeCroce bracketed with Morris County Commissioner Thomas Mastrangelo there, though Mastrangelo ran on a line with Republican gubernatorial candidate Hirsh Singh in the district’s two other counties.
Passaic Republicans gave the line to DeCroce and Barranco, but the former Pompton Lakes councilman gave up his spot to bracket with Webber in the district. Essex County Republicans awarded their line to DeCroce alone.
For the most part, DeCroce campaigned on her endorsements.
Those included ones from prominent Morris County Republicans like former Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Harding), Sheriff Jim Gannon and State Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville), who appeared on the Morris County line with Webber and Barranco but passed the latter over in favor of endorsing both incumbents.
That doesn’t mean there haven’t been political attacks. Webber and Barranco, who weighed a challenge against DeCroce in 2019, launched a mailer attacking DeCroce for a vote in favor of 2020 resolution that would make July 13 “Black Lives Matter Day.”
That measure passed without any opposition, though many of the chamber’s Republicans abstained or did not cast a vote. Webber, for one, abstained.
The contest has also drawn outside money. Garden State Forward, a super PAC backed by the New Jersey Education Association, has reported spending $198,492.50 on digital ads and mailers in the district so far.
The NJEA, the state’s largest teacher’s union, has endorsed DeCroce, though it’s not clear from filings the group submitted to the Election Law Enforcement Commission whether the spending is meant to boost DeCroce or ding her opponents.
Stronger Foundations Inc., the political spending arm of Operating Engineers Local 825, has put $208,870 behind mailers and television and digital ads in the district. Those filings don’t make clear which candidates that spending supports or opposes, though the union opposed Webber’s 2018 bid for Congress and endorsed DeCroce’s re-election in 2019.
Despite the occasional fracas and the odd shot, the district’s Assembly candidates have mostly kept their attacks focused on Gov. Phil Murphy’s handling of the pandemic and sought to gin up the district’s Republican base.
The district’s Democratic candidates — former Assembly candidate Christine Clarke for State Senate and Hawthorne Teachers’ Association President Pamela Fadden and West Milford Democratic County Committee co-leader Melissa Brown Blaeuer — were unopposed in their primaries.
The district is solidly Republican. DeCroce and Webber won re-election with seven- and six-point margins in 2019. Pennacchio scored a 13-point victory in 2017.