Speculation that Essex County Republicans will trade their influence over a congressional seat to get an Essex County person in the 26th Assembly seat is a little unrealistic. If the Essex/Passaic alliance wants to play in the contest for Rodney Frelinghuysen’s seat, then they will – Al Barlas and Peter Murphy play chess, never checkers. It’s not like they’re a bunch of cats chasing some shiny object.
The problem with the theory of a trade for an Essex legislator is that State Sen. Joseph Pennacchio and Assemblyman Jay Webber lack the ability to make such a deal. Legislative vacancies are filled by votes of the full County Committee, and in Morris County where the lineless chairman is traditionally weak, there is no real power to enforce any agreement.
The presumption is that it’s an Assembly seat – that if Pennacchio were to somehow get the nomination, Webber would move up – it would be Webber, not Betty Lou DeCroce – and the deal would need to be kept at the second special election convention.
If Morris County Republicans were serious about keeping the congressional seat –and to be clear, I’ve found nothing in the State Constitution that requires that – then they would offer Essex the 26th district Senate seat. That’s a meaningful offer for Essex. It’s not clear if Essex cares that much about sending someone from Fairfield, North Caldwell, Verona or West Caldwell to the Assembly.
Last thing: if Essex County really wanted an Assembly seat for Fairfield, North Caldwell, Verona or West Caldwell, they would have made a deal in 2017 with Webber and thrown DeCroce off their line. West Milford, in Passaic County, is also in the district; coincidentally, that’s one of the towns under Murphy’s domain.