Yup, DeCroce is Officially in Danger After Lyon’s Strong Passaic Finish.

LD39 and LD40 are rightly getting a lot of attention lately, Save Jerseyans, and veteran Republican politico/former Councilman John McCann‘s major upset win last night in Passaic County merits further discussion.

But for the small but strong community of conservative activists in New Jersey?

Still peeved over the gas tax hike and equally nauseated over Republican fecklessness under the Dome?

LD26 is transforming into Primary 2017’s main event.

It’s what long-time Save Jersey rank-and-file conservative-types want to discuss., and probably with good reason. In the event that you’re just tuning in now, this June’s primary will see a (at minimum) four-way battle for two GOP Assembly nominations in LD26; the current contestants are incumbent Assemblyman Jay Webber, incumebtn Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce, Morris Freeholder Director John Cesaro and fellow Morris Freeholder Hank Lyon.

John Cesaro

LD26 is red; Democrats don’t stand much of a shot here. This is a Republican fight but, unlike most other primary battles this year (and there are plenty of them) this fight is largely ideological.

Enter Hank (who, in full disclosure, is a personal friend).

He’s a scrapper who beat an incumbent Morris County freeholder by four (!) votes back in 2011 and then fought his way back – through conventions and the court system – to defend his victory. It’s a wild story if you’ve never heard/read it. He’s also a movement conservative who articulately, but forcibly, advocates for his county’s taxpayers.

No one gave him much of a chance back in 2011 (myself included). Few are giving him a shot today. I’ve learned my lesson but can’t say the same for the rest of the punditocracy. Hank shocked the establishment a few weeks ago when he decided to run directly against DeCroce (not Webber, with whom he’s ideologically simpatico) this June, largely on the basis of DeCroce’s strong support for the gas tax hike, and plenty more were shocked last night in Passaic when he tied DeCroce, a long-time incumbent, for the executive committee’s support (9-to-9). The pair needs to return in approximately 10 days for a second vote.

“I am humbled by the support I received from the Passaic County Republicans last night,” Lyon told Facebook followers on Wednesday evening. “I will work tirelessly to win the support of every Republican committee member ahead of the runoff vote. Congratulations to Assemblyman Jay Webber on receiving the party’s endorsement. I hope to join him in offering a unified conservative message this fall.”

Lyon (L) and Webber (R)

The state of the battlefield is getting a bit clearer: Webber, armed with unanimous Republican support at the local level, is running solo (officially, at least as of now). That means DeCroce is LIKELY fighting for the #2 spot right now against both Lyon and Cesaro, the latter whom shares her home base of Parsippany-Troy Hills Township. We’re assuming a bit by saying that but not a whole lot given everything going on with the gas tax and Webber’s narrow first place finish ahead of her in 2015.

So what if Webber jumps out to a clear first place lead on June 6th? And voters in Parsippany split their tickets (e.g. lots of Cesaro-Webber or Webber-DeCroce votes)? Cesaro will have money to spend. Can she find enough support elsewhere? Even with money coming her way via a Bill Palatucci-headlined fundraiser?

Passaic’s sole LD26 outpost – 25,850-strong West Milford – could prove decisive.

We don’t typically take sides in these things, Save Jerseyans. Not because I don’t sometimes want to, or reserve the right to do so (stay tuned), but because I view our mission at Save Jersey as primarily one of information and advocacy. Not in a nose-in-the-air kind of way. God knows we’re not shy with our opinions when politicians screw up! But at the end of the day we’re on YOUR side, without exceptions, and not any single politician’s or campaign’s side. That’s a qualitative distinction. We get the info to the people who need to read it (N.J. voters) to make good decisions. Period.

In this case? Here’s what you need to know: (1) Assemblywoman DeCroce’s reelection is officially under real threat and (2) She has no one to blame but herself for doubling down on a very anti-taxpayer decision. I say that with no malice or enmity implied; it’s just a fact! And how the next few months plays out will tell us a lot about the direction that our state party will be heading over the next several years.

Sit tight. We’ll let you know how Round #2 in Passaic goes in several short days.

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