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Morris County Freeholder John Cesaro, right, with Morris County Clerk Ann Grossi

Morris Freeholder faces GOP battle

By David Wildstein, January 19 2018 12:06 am

Morris County Freeholder John Cesaro is going to have a rough time winning a Republican primary this year, as some GOP leaders look to settle some deep grudges.

Cesaro challenged Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce (R-Parsippany) in the 2017 Republican primary.  He finished a weak fourth, and it has caused him trouble with establishment Republicans — and with conservatives who feel he took votes from another DeCroce rival, Freeholder Hank Lyon.

One of Cesaro’s closest political allies, County Clerk Ann Grossi, has reportedly distanced herself from her friend.  The two served together on the Parsippany Council and on the Freeholder Board.  Grossi is up for re-election this year and could wind up with a primary challenger.

Another strong ally, Parsippany Mayor James Barbiero, was defeated for re-election last fall by Democrat Michael Soriano.  Gov. Phil Murphy swore in Soriano.

One incumbent, Christine Myers, is not seeking re-election.  She joined the Trump administration last month as the Regional Advocate for the U.S. Small Business Administration.  (She says he can fill the remaining year of her term; I disagree, but that’s an issue for another day.)

Freeholder Deborah Smith is running for re-election, and she seems likely to run on a ticket with former Freeholder John Krickus and a third candidate who is not Cesaro.  That will leave Cesaro seeking two running mates.

Cesaro has another target on his back: some of the labor unions who have played in Morris County Republican politics in recent years appear to want him out.

In 2015, Cesaro was the low vote-getter in the GOP Freeholder primary, beating Krickus by just 194 votes.

Looming large in Morris County this year is the prospect of Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Harding) facing the first competitive general election of his 44-year political career.  Murphy lost Morris County by just 11,696 votes in 2017; twelve years earlier, Jon Corzine lost Morris by 21,564.  And Democrat Lisa Bhimani, a political newcomer, won 48% against six-term State Sen. Tony Bucco (R-Morris).

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