No one expected Freeholder Hank Lyon (R-Morris) to win the Passaic County GOP’s line, Save Jerseyans, but when the scrappy millennial conservative tied incumbent Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce (R-26) at the initial Passaic County screening vote earlier this month, it confirmed suspicions that this year’s Assembly primary would be as interesting as its been billed.
Well, the Establishment struck back last night.
DeCroce defeated Lyon at Wednesday night’s run-off, 17 to 4 (our friend Asm. Jay Webber won enough support in round #1 to avoid a second scrutiny).
“I am humbled by the overwhelming support of the Passaic County GOP and my friends in West Milford last night, and honored to run on the county line with our endorsed Republican team in the June primary,” said Assemblywoman DeCroce in a statement following her victory. “I am eager to run on my proven conservative track record and earn the votes of rank-and-file Republicans across the 26th Legislative District.”
She won’t have any cash problems going forward in her effort to hold onto the seat; Assemblywoman DeCroce’s backers include Christie consigliere Bill Palatucci who’s hosting a spring fundraiser for her benefit.
It’s not hard to imagine why Lyon isn’t popular with the insider crowd. Anyone who thinks for himself or herself is a “threat” these days, folks. Welcome to the Christie-era Republican Party such as it is.
[Insert Rooney rant you’ve heard 1,000-times here.]
Now the battle heads to the streets where Lyon intends to go door-to-door and make an issue of both DeCroce’s gas tax hike vote and alleged lack of success as a party builder at a time when the NJGOP is crippled by defeat and internal conflict.
A ‘safe’ Republican district, LD26 includes the Essex County towns of Fairfield Township, North Caldwell Borough, Verona Township and West Caldwell Township (where the line remains in flux), the Morris County municipalities of Butler Borough, Jefferson Township, Kinnelon Borough, Lincoln Park Borough, Montville Township, Morris Plains Borough, Parsippany-Troy Hills Township and Rockaway Township (where there is no line), and the sole Passaic County outpost of West Milford Township where DeCroce now has preferred ballot position after last night.
Webber is expected to finish first though nothing is certain in a 4-way rumble. Lyon and fellow Morris Freeholder John Cesaro are openly competing to pick off DeCroce.