An x-rated phone message and a drag queen.
Both are starring elements in the already crazy primary campaign in LD-26 between state Sen. Joseph Pennacchio and challenger Thomas Mastrangelo.
Text messaging with links seems to be the campaign modus operandi of choice for both Pennacchio and Mastrangelo.
Before we go further, it is worth asking how many recipients pay attention – especially when you consider the primary is almost two months away.
Still, one cannot ignore the colorful nature of it all.
A recent text on Mastrangelo’s behalf states:
“Joe Pennacchio endorses candidates that support drag queen story hour for young children.”
Not only that, he “receives thousands of dollars from the NJEA.”
Let’s unpack this a bit.
The NJEA, or teachers’ union, has a tendency to back incumbents. Talk about good politics.
So it is not surprising that they support Republicans like Pennacchio who are in safe districts.
The drag queen reference is a rerun from last year’s primary when Mastrangelo sharply attacked his then opponent for Morris County commissioner, Sarah Neibart, a former mayor in Mendham Township.
As mayor, Neibart attended a local drag queen story hour in the township.
Mastrangelo seized on this as evidence Neibart was something other than a conservative Republican, at one point even comparing her to AOC.
The charge may have been sheer nonsense, but Mastrangelo narrowly won his race. Litigation that ensued after the campaign was settled out of court.
Mastrangelo, quite clearly, thinks the issue still resonates.
A recent message from his campaign twice mentions Pennacchio’s support for a “woke” candidate last year. For the record, Neibart was supported by the entire Morris County Republican Committee.
The so-called culture wars are a big deal among conservative Republicans, especially those who vote in primaries.
Yet, Pennacchio by all accounts, is one of the more conservative members of the Legislature. It may be a hard sell to convince primary voters in a district that covers parts of Morris and Passaic counties that he is not.
As for Pennacchio, he already has sent out an audio of the “phone message.”
This is one Mastrangelo left on the answering machine of Lou Valori, a Parsippany Republican, a number of years ago.
It includes Mastrangelo using multiple f-bombs and other insults to criticize some of his fellow Republicans. The obvious point here is that a senator should not talk – or act – that way.
Then again, are all that many people offended by salty language these days?
How about a drag queen?
Talk about a moral dilemma.