Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce is taking his own 2007 re-election campaign seriously. Worried that he could get lost in the already heated contest for an open Assembly seat in the 26th disrict (incumbent Joseph Pennacchio is running for the Senate) between attorney Jay Webber and Kinnelon Council President Lawrence Casha, this week DeCroce sent out his fourth direct mail piece of 2006 to Republican primary voters. DeCroce’s problem is that dollars spent on his own campaign in GOP-safe Morris County (where there is no organization line in primaries) comes out of the money he can export to other districts where Republicans are seeking to unseat Democratic incumbents. That makes it harder for DeCroce to recruit strong challenger candidates, and tougher for them to win without the Assembly Republican Leader’s full warchest. Assembly Republican Victory 2007, DeCroce’s leadership PAC, has $239,311 cash-on-hand (Assembly Democrats have almost three times as much) and has just $109,920 in his own account accont. In 2003, Senate Co-President John Bennett and Republican Majority Leader Anthony Bucco spent a combined $1.2 million defending their seats in safe Republican districts after personal problems made each of them vulnerable. Bennett had to fend off a primary challenge before losing to Democrat Ellen Karcher; had he not run for re-election, his seat would have likely remained in GOP hands — and some insiders argue strongly that the million dollars could have flipped 32 votes from Fred Madden to George Geist, giving the GOP twenty Senate seats and shared control of the upper house. One strategist suggested that the 70-year-old DeCroce could put his party first and not run for an eleventh term and instead devote all his energies to helping Republicans battle Democrats in districts where his party might pick up seats — but even that strategist says that few politicians are that selfless. DeCroce could try to put an end to the primary in his own district by convincing one of the candidates to wait for the next opportunity.