Mastrangelo Wants LD-26 Senate Seat

Three incumbent Morris County freeholders appear well on their way to victory in what has been a particularly nasty 2019 election.

Morris County Commissioner Tom Mastrangelo is planning a run for the state senate in LD-26.

The seat is currently occupied by state Senator Joe Pennacchio.

So, there’s going to be a GOP Primary.

Rumors circulated for weeks that Mastrangelo was going to challenge Pennacchio.

Many in the universe of county GOP politics paid them little heed, considering this was not “new news.” Such reports seemed to surface every time Pennacchio was up for election.

But this year looks different.

About two hours or so ago at this writing, Mastrangelo updated his Facebook page to read, “Tom Mastrangelo for Senate.”

So, here in 2023, his challenge is apparently real.

Pennacchio, who quite obviously has been paying attention to the rumors, declined immediate comment.

But don’t expect him to be silent for long. Pennacchio certainly doesn’t shy from competition. He ran for the U.S. Senate more than a decade ago – losing to Dick Zimmer in the 2008 Republican primary – and as old-timers recall, had the guts to challenge the popular Rep. Dean Gallo way back in 1994.

Mastrangelo has been a freeholder/commissioner since being elected in 2010.

As of late, however, he has fallen out of favor with his colleagues, so much so that the board in late 2021 asked the state to investigate him for a possible ethics violation. The allegation was that Mastrangelo improperly tried to threaten a county employee. The matter is apparently still pending.  For the record, the state does not confirm nor deny such investigations.

Mastrangelo could seek the party’s endorsement for Senate at the county committee’s March 4 convention, but there’s no guarantee of that.

Judging from his troubles with his fellow commissioners, Mastrangelo is not popular with insiders.

That was evident last year when the county committee endorsed Sarah Neibart for commissioner, notwithstanding Mastrangelo’s status as an incumbent.

County Republicans know what happened next.

Mastrangelo harshly criticized Neibart for her appearance at a drag queen event, incredulously linking her to AOC. The tactic worked; Mastrangelo narrowly prevailed in the primary, and as is customary in GOP-Morris, was not really threatened in the general.

Neibart fired back during the campaign, questioning Mastrangelo’s ethics. Both sides sued. The litigation eventually was settled out of court.

How, and if, last year’s bitter campaign impacts Mastrangelo’s apparent Senate run this year remains to be seen.

There also is a challenge afoot to the two Assemblymen in the district – Jay Webber and Brian Bergen – by BettyLou DeCroce, who lost her seat in 2021.

Bergen is new to the district because of redistricting.

LD-26 now includes Boonton, Denville, East Hanover, Hanover, Florham Park, Lincoln Park, Mountain Lakes, Montville, Morris Plains, Parsippany, Pequannock and Riverdale in Morris County and Bloomingdale, Pompton Lakes, Ringwood and Wanaque in Passaic.

What has not changed is the district’s strong GOP-tilt, making the primary very much the real race.

Mastrangelo is serving his fourth, three-year term on the board, making him the second longest-serving member of the current line of Commissioners.

Commissioner Mastrangelo is a lifelong New Jersey resident who was first elected to the board in November 2010, and then selected by his colleagues to be director in 2013 and again in 2014.

He is a member of the county’s Capital Budget and Facilities Review Committee and is liaison to the Park Commission, the Economic Development Corporation and the Morris County Improvement Authority. He also is co-liaison to Law and Public Safety, Public Works, the Office of Planning and Preservation and the County Insurance Fund Commission.

Professionally, Mastrangelo has more than 25 years of management and business consulting experience in the information technology industry, especially in the areas of design and delivery of technology solutions involving storage systems, networks, server platforms and support services.


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