Home>Campaigns>Ex-Senator known as Mr. Potato Head returns to political arena in support of DeCroce

Former State Sen. Bob Martin introduces Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce at a fundraiser in Morris County on May 4, 2021.

Ex-Senator known as Mr. Potato Head returns to political arena in support of DeCroce

Bob Martin, longtime Webber rival, introduced DeCroce at fundraiser last night

By David Wildstein, May 05 2021 11:21 am

Former State Sen. Bob Martin (R-Morris Plains), once dubbed “Mr. Potato Head” for alternating his political face in an election year, made a return to the rubber chicken circuit last night when he introduced Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce (R-Parsippany) at a fundraiser for her re-election bid.

“She cares.  She’s a person who’s very caring,” said Martin.  “She fights for what she believes in.  She’s a good person.”

The 74-year-old Martin retired from the Senate in 2007, four years after facing a ferocious challenge from Jay Webber in the Republican primary.

After a conviction on drunk driving charges and criticism over using his over $40,000 campaign funds to pay for college tuition costs so that he could receive a gradate degree in Education from Columbia University, Martin was viewed as damaged goods and left public office to avoid another primary challenge, possibly from then-Assemblyman Joseph Pennacchio (R-Montville).

After leaving the Senate, Martin found himself in trouble again.

After serving as a jury foreman in a slip and fall case at a Shop-Rite in his old legislative district that awarded someone $900,000, Martin was accused of improperly influencing the jury by offering his own legal interpretation of the judge’s instructions.  A panel of there appellate court judges reversed the ruling and forced a new trial.

Martin did not immediately disclose his arrest and was serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time.  He questioned Zulima Farber, who was Gov. Jon Corzine’s nominee for attorney general, about his driving record.

He said paying his tuition from a campaign account was appropriate, since he served on the Senate Education Committee.  But Martin was also a Seton Hall law professor, and the added degree would improve his salary there.

During the three months that his driving privileges were suspended, Martin was reimbursed $110 for replenishment of his EZ-Pass by his campaign account.  That represented 314 trips through a Garden State Parkway toll booth – tolls were .35 at the time – even though Morris Plains is 20 miles from the nearest toll booth.

DeCroce faces a fierce primary battle in her bid for re-election to a sixth term after losing party support at the Morris County GOP convention in March by nine votes.  She is running off the line in Morris, which represents 78% of the Republican primary voters.  DeCroce has party support in Essex and Passaic counties.

During his 2003 primary against Webber, Martin became so irritated by the Mr. Potato Head reference first used by PoliticsNJ, that he had his lawyer, Bill Palatucci, contact Hasbro in an unsuccessful bid to get them to claim a copywrite infringement.

Webber is running on the Morris GOP line with Christian Barranco, an electrician who beat DeCroce at the convention.

Martin represented the 26th district in the State Assembly from 1985 to 1993, and in the Senate from 1993 until 2008.

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