An Assembly primary in Morris County will decide if incumbent BettyLou DeCroce supports black militants overthrowing the U.S. government.
That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much.
Ever since Morris Republicans awarded their first-ever line to Assemblyman Jay Webber and newcomer
Christian Barranco, bypassing DeCroce, the LD-26 primary campaign has descended into open warfare.
Despite representing the same district, Webber and DeCroce never have been buddy-buddy, a point this campaign emphasizes and then some.
The state Election Law Enforcement Commission said today that total spending in the campaign by individuals and groups has reached almost $1.5 million. Tom Mastrangelo, a Morris County commissioner, also is in the race in a mostly Morris district that also includes parts of Essex and Passaic counties.
Webber and Barranco have seized on what really was a symbolic, Assembly vote last June to designate
July 13 as Black Lives Matter Day in New Jersey. The resolution talks about the need for solidarity among people and the importance of recognizing past injustices.
Some Republicans voted for it. Nobody voted against it, although some legislators, Webber among them, abstained. The Senate, by the way, never voted on the bill.
These caveats notwithstanding, Webber is accusing DeCroce of supporting all purported elements of the BLM movement, among them defunding police, abolishing prisons and even eliminating capitalism. And by using an endorsement Donald Trump gave him during his 2018 congressional campaign, Webber has positioned himself with the former president against DeCroce. In case you miss the point, one of his campaign pieces features the black power salute – the clenched fist.
Every contested campaign has wild charges and counter charges.
DeCroce, for her part, has labeled some of her opponents hypocrites, phony Republicans and even closet Democrats. As wild as those accusations may be, they are within the realm of normal political talk in a Republican primary.
The BLM charges, however, are in a different class.
It is true that Republicans used BLM and the “defund the police” movement as a significant issue in last year’s national election. But that was against Democrats, some of whom either supported, or did not really condemn, the notion of defunding the police.
This brings us to the wisdom of what Webber is doing to a fellow Republican.
As we asked before, will primary voters truly believe DeCroce supports black militancy?
That may be the most fascinating, if not crazy, question of the 2021 primary cycle. And you thought the big issues in New Jersey were property taxes and the pandemic.