In LD26, Assemblyman Webber Refuses to Back Down


Jay Webber is probably fairly well known as state Assembly members go.

That’s normally a very good thing, but maybe not in this case. Webber’s political profile, if you will, was raised last year when he was the unsuccessful Republican candidate in the 11th District against now-Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill. Democrats blasted him for being too conservative for the district and most specifically, for voting against an equal pay for equal work measure in Trenton.

That issue hasn’t gone away as Webber faces the voters again – this time in Legislative District 26.

In fact, Webber brought the issue up himself, recently circulating a flyer trumpeting his backing for pay equality for women and women’s rights in general.

Democrats quickly pounced, calling him a hypocrite.

Webber doesn’t back down.

He contends last year’s legislation was irrelevant because current law already protects women in the workplace. Additionally, it’s been noted that most Republicans had voted against a previous bill that then-Gov. Christie vetoed. A key change was that the second bill was named after Diane Allen, a well-respected, former Republican state senator. Another change was that Phil Murphy, who was now governor, signed the bill.

No matter, the “equal pay” issue is bound to reverberate through a suburban district that covers eastern Morris and small parts of Essex and Passaic counties.

On the surface, this appears to be an easy hurdle for Republicans, who won the district by about 7,000 votes in 2017. That was when Murphy was easily winning the governor’s race statewide.

This year’s Democratic candidates are Laura Fortgang of Verona and Christine Clarke of Jefferson. They’re from opposite ends of the district and appear to be running somewhat separate campaigns with individual websites. Still, a joint campaign event is planned for later this month with Sherrill (of course) the featured star.

As for the Republicans, it’s no secret in Morris GOP circles that Webber and his district partner, Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce, are not the best of friends. This popped into the open last year when DeCroce endorsed Antony Ghee for the GOP congressional nomination Webber ended up winning.

DeCroce is not a liberal by any means, but she is not as ideologically conservative as Webber. It would be no surprise if Democrats concentrate most of their attention on Webber on a belief picking up one seat in the district would be good enough. But it’s still an uphill fight.

This is another of the Assembly districts where the state teachers’ union is splitting its bets. The NJEA has endorsed both DeCroce and Clarke.

DeCroce noted that she sits on the Legislature’s joint committee on public schools, a very bipartisan group.

Fortgang responded to the NJEA passing her up with a statement expressing support for teachers.

It said in part that she “maintains unwavering support for New Jersey’s dedicated teachers, their earned benefits, pensions and the integrity of collective bargaining. New Jersey consistently ranks at the very top of public schools in the nation, and this excellent education is one of our state’s strongest qualities.”

The statement lamented that “thanks to policies enacted by the Legislature, many teachers are taking home less pay today than they did years ago. That can’t go on. It drives talent from the profession and keeps our best and brightest from choosing to teach in the first place.”

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