Democratic and Republican voters will have a last chance to cast their ballots on Tuesday to decide who their party’s nominee for State Senate and Assembly should be this November.
There are only a few of the 120 seats up for election—40 in the State Senate, 80 in the Assembly—that have contested races. But three of the most notable ones are happening in North Jersey: the Republican races in the 24th and 26th Legislative District and the Democratic contest in the 27th.
Following is the backstory to the three races North-JerseyNews.com will be monitoring on Tuesday night.
24th Legislative District
Current office holders: State Sen. Steve Oroho, Assemblyman Hal Wirths and Parker Space, all Republicans
Republican candidates: Parker Space for State Senate with Dawn Fantasia and Mike Inganamort for Assembly on the same ticket which received the Morris County party line.
Josh Aikens, Jason Sarnoski (running as ticket) and Ron Kovic, all running for Assembly.
Democratic candidates: Edmund Khanoo for State Senate, Alicia Sharma for Assembly
Notes: The race in this majoritively Sussex County district has been for the two open seats for Assembly. Sussex County Commissioner Fantasia and Chester Township Mayor Inganamort are battling Lafayette Board of Education president Aiken and Warren County Commissioner Sarnoski for two of the safest Republican seats in all of New Jersey.
Although mostly having the same positions on key GOP issues such as the Second Amendment, abortion and parental rights, the two slates have battled on the grounds who the true conservatives are in the race that has been incredibly personal.
An instagram post from Aiken and Sarnoski earlier this year was called by the Morris County Chair as “lewd” and “sexist” and backers of the duo have raised questions about Fantasia being “sympathetic to sex offenders” due to a court order allowing her husband to have joint custody of their children after he was arrested in 2007 for criminal sexual contact while a high school teacher. Fantasio responded that her opponents are running “a sick and twisted…campaign strategy” and that voters should hold them “accountable for peddling this smut.”
Policy debates have centered around the 2016 gas tax; environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG); and the Republican establishment not doing enough to push forward a more conservative agenda in Trenton.
As for the State Senate race, it fizzled out before it began. Space had originally planned to retire but entered the State Senate race after Oroho announced his decision to not run earlier this year. Space was to face off against former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, but he bowed in March after a highly charged early campaign.
26th Legislative District
Current office holders: State Sen. Joe Pennacchio, Assemblymen Jay Webber and Christian Barranco
Republican candidates: State Sen. Joe Pennacchio, Assemblymen Jay Webber and Brian Bergen are running on the Morris County party line
Tom Mastrangelo for State Senate with BettyLou DeCroce and Robert Peluso for Assembly on the Regular Republican party line
Democratic candidates: John Van Achen for State Senate, with Walter Mielarczyk and Joan Waks for the Assembly.
Notes: Bergen joins Pennacchio and Webber as the party’s choice, three of the most reliable conservative lawmakers in Trenton. They are being challenged in the primary by a slate led by Morris County Commissioner Mastrangelo seeking the State Senate seat along with former Parsippany Councilman Peluso and DeCroce, who was an Assemblywoman for the district for 10 years before losing the backing of Morris County Republicans at their convention in 2021.
The race in its final days has become a contest for the Senate seat and one Assembly seat. The State Senate race, much like the Assembly race in the 24th, has been a back and forth about who is a true Republican. Mastrangelo has attempted to tie Pennacchio, who was the co-chair for Donald Trump’s presidential campaigns in New Jersey, as voting for the most liberal parts of Gov. Phil Murphy’s agenda. In return with denials and promoting his conservative record, Pennacchio has questioned Mastrangelo for being absent from or late to 44% of county commissioner meetings since 2021.
Bergen and DeCroce appear to be fighting for one of two seats, with Webber expected to reclaims his. Beregn, who was redistricted into the 26th from the 25th, and DeCroce have in the latter stages of the contest focused their attacks on each other. Beregn claims that DeCroce would not show up for tough votes during her 10 years in the Trenton and characterized the former Assemblywoman as “the least present and most liberal Republican in the Assembly” during her tenure.
DeCroce’s line of attack has been centered on a lack of accomplishments during Bergen’s three year tenure and serving on only one committee, Appropriations. “He can scream and yell his head off during the Assembly voting sessions about legislation he had nothing to do with,” DeCroce said, noting she was able to have having 55 bills signed into law that she was the primary sponsor of. “But his theatrics are meaningless, as are his votes.”
One other factor that could be significant in this election: the ballot and party line. While Pennacchio, Webber and Bergen have the Morris County GOP party line, column A was awarded to Mastrangelo, DeCroce and Peluso. Plus, Mastrangelo has previously won in a primary without the party’s backing.
27th Legislative District
Current office holders: State Sen. Richard Codey, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey and Assemblyman John McKeon
Republican candidates: Irene DeVita for State Senate with Jonathan Sym and Mark Meyerowitz for Assembly
Democratic candidates: State Sen. Richard Codey with Assemblyman John McKeon and Alixon Collazos on the Essex County party line.
State Sen. Nia Gill with Frank Kasper and Eve Robinson for Assembly on the Essex and Passaic Democratic Organization line.
Craig Stanley for Assembly
Notes: The 27th will see a face off in the primary of two sitting State Senators—Codey and Gill, whose Montclair home was drawn into the 27th from the 34th. Gil is running with Montclair’s Robinson and Clifton’s Kasper under the Essex and Passaic Democratic Organization. Codey’s ticket, which has the Essex and Passaic County Party lines, includes McKeon and Alixon Collazos, a former aide to Rep. Steve Rothman, a late addition to the ticket after Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin (D-34) announced that he would not seek re-election.
But the contest between the Codey and Gill slates looks to be a wipeout, as Codey has been backed by a who’s who of North Jersey Congress members, county executives and local leaders. More telling is that Codey’s campaign cash advantage is enormous—$839,523 cash-on-hand after raising $94,847 during the first quarter of 2023 as compared to Gill’s having $25,724 cash-on-hand while raising $23,976