The Morris Back Story: Old Webber-Palatucci Fault Lines Reemerge in CD11


Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-26) is said to be on his way to the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) to eyeball his prospects for the seat that U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11) will leave behind at the end of this year.

While Webber moves on that front, Chris Christie ally Bill Palatucci is making calls in support of Morris County Freeholder Christine Meyers for Frelinghuysen’s seat, according to a source close to Morris County politics.

A second source told InsiderNJ that Palatucci has not made any calls for anyone.

The simultaneously moving parts make for intriguing political drama given the back story of Palatucci and Webber.

The two men crossed paths in 2003, when Palatucci advised then state Senator Bob Martin (R-26). Webber challenged Martin from the right in the primary that year. The race got tough, and the main parties involved left nursing some ill will.

Webber and Palatucci attempted to put aside their differences in 2009 when Christie – looking to shore up the conservative wing of his party after defeating former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan in a statewide GOP Primary, tapped Webber to lead the party.

Ultimately, relations between Webber and Christie’s people soured, the consequence in part of the governor looking to project nationally as he constructed a runway to the presidency, while Webber sought a more traditional party-building party prioritization, while perhaps arguably always threatening to burn too brightly as Christie sought sole status atop the pyramid of party power.

Webber left the chairmanship in the aftermath of 2011 redistricting, supplanted by potent party fundraiser (and the considerably lower profile) former Saddle River Mayor Sam Raia.

Sources say one wing of the party sees an advantage to running a woman to succeed Frelinghuysen.

Myers is in that Morris mix.

Another name – Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce (R-26) – has her own foul weather tale to tell about Webber. Divided on the Christie-championed gas tax hike, with the assemblyman opposed and DeCroce in favor, the two ran in a contentious GOP Primary last year.

They both survived.

But no one ever confirmed any deepened affection as a consequence of the election.

Still, Myers right now looks like a stronger option.

Sources say Morris County Freeholder Tom Mastraneglo is interested, and state Senator Joe Peanncchio (R-26) has not yet ruled out pursuing the seat.

As Morris attempts to resolve itself, powerful local GOP boss Peter Murphy of Totowa and Essex County GOP Chairman Al Barlas appear to have forged an inter-county alliance (Passaic and Essex) and will attempt to take advantage of a divided Morris in time for a primary.

Their preferred choice is said to be state Senator Kristin Corrado (R-40).

But Passaic/Essex is unresolved.

Businessman Joe Caruso of Wayne is said to be dabbling.

He just started a PAC.

On a runway shortened by Frelinghuysen’s decision to delay his announcement until 2018 (his colleague U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo [R-2] made his retirement intentions known last year, in the vein of former U.S. Rep. Mike Ferguson (R-7), who in Nov. of 2007 announced his intentions not to run again in 2008.

Moreover, a source told InsiderNJ, “Insiders are upset that Rodney did not contact them before going public. 

“Leaves GOP in bad position,” the source added. “[The National Republican Campaign Committee] NRCC wants CD 5 back. Now they have to fight to hold on to CD11.”


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