After months of speculation, Morris County Commissioner Tom Mastrangelo formally kicked off his campaign for State Senate today, challenging incumbent State Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville) for the Republican nomination in the 26th legislative district.
“With our nation and our state facing economic uncertainty and a relentless undermining of American values by progressives, Senate District 26 needs a senator committed to reform, grounded in principle, and with the courage to stand up to the woke leftist mob in Trenton,” Mastrangelo said in a statement.
A county commissioner since 2011, Mastrangelo has been considered a possible Senate candidate for months; a poll was the field testing a Mastrangelo vs. Pennacchio matchup in November, though Mastrangelo claimed he wasn’t behind it. Earlier this week, Mastrangelo’s Facebook page was briefly edited to reflect his State Senate campaign before he switched the page to private.
“It’s time for common sense in our elected leaders to make a comeback,” he said today. “Getting results for the people of Senate District 26 requires leaders who will stand on principle in the face of relentless pressure and opposition. That’s the kind of commissioner I have been and the type of senator I will be.”
Mastrangelo’s statement does not directly mention Pennacchio, but in order to win, he will have to convince voters to dump the five-term senator.
Shortly after Mastrangelo entered the race, Pennacchio released a statement promoting his own conservative record and slamming his “ethically challenged” opponent. (In 2021, Mastrangelo’s fellow commissioners unanimously voted to investigate him for unethical conduct related to his interactions with a county committeemember.)
“Tom Mastrangelo is morally bankrupt and has proven time and time again that there is no line he will not cross in order to further his political career,” Pennacchio said. “I cannot wait to match my record, temperament and character against Tom’s so that the voters of the 26th district can end Tom’s career once-and-for-all.”
Pennacchio already has the support of most county and local Republicans in the district, so unless something dramatic changes, Mastrangelo will likely run without county organizational support – something he’s successfully done before. Last year, Morris Republicans denied Mastrangelo party support for renomination as county commissioner, but he ran off-the-line and beat party-endorsed Mendham Township Committeewoman Sarah Neibart.
It’s likely that Mastrangelo will recruit a full slate of candidates this year for the Assembly and County Commission, where Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris Plains), Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-Denville), and Commissioner Tayfun Selen are all running for re-election.
Two other prominent Republicans have already made moves towards campaigns: former Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce (R-Parsippany) is waging a comeback bid for the Assembly, while former congressional candidate Paul DeGroot has handed out nominating petitions for county commissioner but hasn’t yet publicly announced his plans.
This story was updated at 3:18 p.m. with a statement from Senator Pennachio.