Webber on the brink of stardom; Casha is front runner for the next open seat

Former Kinnelon Council President Larry Casha lost his bid for State Assembly yesterday — it was his second loss; Joseph Pennacchio beat him in a 2001 Special Election Convention — but he performed well enough in ultra-forgiving Morris County to remain on the short list for the next vacancy.

Casha ran a strong campaign, with perhaps the best direct mail of the cycle, but could not compete with Webber, who had spent five years running for the Legislature and had a virtual lock on primary-voting conservatives. By the time the next seat comes up — Alex DeCroce turns 71 on Sunday — Casha may be able to shed the liability of being Bob Martin's staffer and campaign aide.

The 35-year-old Webber, smart and unabashedly conservative, is the strong favorite to win in November; his district has only went Democratic once — in 1973, when John Sinsimer, the Mayor of Pompton Lakes, won in the Watergate landslide. (Sinsimer lasted just two years; he was beaten by Dean Gallo, then a Morris County Freeholder.) The Harvard-educated lawyer has a good relationship with DeCroce (they shared the Passaic County organization line), and a strong political resume: he was a top aide to Congressman William Martini in the 1990's and a Law Clerk to New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero before mounting a strong challenge to veteran State Senator Robert Martin in the 2003 GOP primary. Among Republicans, there is an expectation that Webber will emerge as a star in Trenton. Webber on the brink of stardom; Casha is front runner for the next open seat