Pennacchio’s War Room: LD26 Senator Dives into the Morris Freeholder Contest


To state Sen. Joseph Pennacchio, this year’s Republican freeholder primary in Morris County is about integrity and honesty.

We know. All elections are about integrity and honesty.

But Pennacchio, R-Dist. 26, raised the ante a bit in a recent letter endorsing incumbent John Cesaro and his ticket-mate Aura Dunn.

“If integrity and honesty count for something, then the choice is clear – Cesaro and Dunn,” he says in a recent letter.

Cesaro and Dunn are running against the team of incumbent Deborah Smith, former freeholder John Krickus and Stephan Shaw. Three nominations are up next Tuesday.

So if Pennacchio says Cesaro and Dunn are the candidates with “integrity and honesty,” is he suggesting  their opponents lack those qualities?

The senator is not going there – at least not directly.

“People will read it the way they want,” Pennacchio said in a phone conversation on Tuesday.

Last week, the team of Smith, Krickus and Shaw sent out an attack mailer that, among other things, accused Cesaro of holding down multiple public jobs and opined that Dunn was a Washington lobbyist.
Ceasro and Dunn declined to respond specifically to the mailer. So, Pennacchio’s letter may have to suffice.

Meanwhile, another mailer from the Smith team strives to make the point that if voters care about gun rights, these are the candidates for them.

The flyer refers to Smith as a Second Amendment supporter and notes that she is a longtime leader of a major local gun club and that she supports hunting programs across New Jersey.

The mailing also includes a letter of support from NRA Board member Scott L. Bach. Writing as an individual, Bach says that Smith “has demonstrated a deep and longstanding  commitment to the Second Amendment.”

Bach doesn’t mention Smith’s ticket-mates, but the three candidates are pictured together above the message, “Vote the Morris County Conservative Team.”

Appealing to NRA supporters is normally good strategy in a Republican primary. The message may resonate even more than usual among those who think gun rights are under attack across the country.

But there are some problem here.

The county freeholders have virtually nothing to do with gun laws of any kind.

There is also a case of the rhetoric outpacing the facts, which is hardly uncommon with political mailings.

The flyer says that Smith will fight back “against (Governor) Phil Murphy’s gun-grabbing policies.”

That begs an obvious question, since taking office in January, just how many guns has the governor grabbed?

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