Three Republicans incumbents in the 26th legislative district – State Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville), Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-Denville), and Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris Plains) – have won the Morris Republican organizational line, beating a challenge at today’s county convention from two current and former elected officials.
Challenging Pennacchio was County Commissioner Tom Mastrangelo (R-Montville); Pennacchio got 174 votes, or 77%, to Mastrangelo’s 52, or 23%. Bergen and Webber won with 200 (49%) and 165 votes (40%), respectively, ahead of former Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce (R-Parsippany)’s 46 votes (12%).
The results were not unexpected, given that the three incumbents had gotten the public support of 80% of county committeemembers and the vast majority of local elected officials prior to the convention. The three incumbent legislators already have the GOP line in Passaic County, which makes up only a small portion of the 26th district.
After it became clear he had won, Pennacchio had harsh words for Mastrangelo, continuing what has already been an intense and often personal campaign.
“There’s a certain political psychosis – a detachment – that’s going on by my opponent,” Pennacchio said. “He just doesn’t get it. He sees a path to victory – that path to victory doesn’t exist. Perhaps some medication, perhaps some therapy – but certainly not the ballot box.”
Mastrangelo and DeCroce both said they’ll continue their campaigns without party support. They’ve each done it once before, with different results: Mastrangelo lost party support for his 2022 county commissioner re-election campaign but won off-the-line, while DeCroce’s off-the-line Assembly re-election campaign in 2021 was unsuccessful.
“It’s on,” DeCroce said in a statement after the convention. “We are going to a primary race in June. The 26th district desperately needs effective conservative representation in Trenton. That’s what I offer to voters. Conservative women don’t whine – we work.”
Mastrangelo and DeCroce, as well as other losers of today’s convention, could theoretically combine into a joint off-the-line slate, though that’s far from guaranteed.
This story was updated at 6:05 p.m. with a statement from DeCroce.