A former Kinnelon Councilman and private attorney, Larry Casha wants to succeed Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce (R-26) on merit, but a widow who just lost her husband stands in his way.
Veteran of a 2007 political bar brawl with Assemblyman Jay Webber, Casha knows it’s tough to throw a punch when the overriding emotion out there right now for Betty Lou DeCroce is sympathy.
Still, Casha said when Morris County GOP Committee members convene at the Zeris Inn on Wednesday night, he has a shot – and should have a shot.
“I announced before she did and suddenly she decided to announce,” said Casha. “The long and short of it is the governor needs some help down there to stand up to the hierarchy of the Legislature, someone who’s willing to speak truth to power. Betty Lou is entitled to run regardless of whether she was married to Alex or not. But I have created jobs, and Betty Lou hasn’t done that.”
Mrs. DeCroce would be double dipping if she wins, Casha said, and he doesn’t think that should be the GOP message right now.
“I don’t believe in double dipping,” said Casha. “If Betty Lou gets this nod she will be collecting a paycheck from the state Department of Community Affairs… She was a town clerk in Roxbury from 1988 until just recently. So, look, I think there’s a contrast here on credentials. I win by telling and convincing the people that I’m the appropriate person to go to Trenton. It’s the people who run our government, not the establishment and the hierarchy when they go into the voting booth. I understand there’s a certain amount of sympathy out there but we’re going to live with this decision for a very long time.”
A beloved Assembly Minority Leader, Mr. DeCroce died after the legislative session two weeks ago.
“People who know me know I’m not a nasty and vindictive guy,” Casha said. “Sometimes you have to take a look and see what’s right and what has to be done for the people of New Jersey. Betty Lou is accomplished and she has the right to run. But I’m not convinced she’s the right person. I feel bad about the fact that Alex passed away. He was a friend of mine, and I was an aide of Alex’s.
“But this is about credentials,” he added. “The thing I have heard when I talk to people is they appreciate my experience and credentials. I think the thing they’re looking at right now is a private-sector guy who meets a payroll and who isn’t part of the bureaucracy.”
A private-dime attorney practicing for 30 years, Casha now employs 13 people. He said public-sector contracts comprise 1% of his business revenue – a paycheck the firm receives as special counsel to Warren County.
Insiders have casually told PolitickerNJ.com that it’s game over for Casha. The DeCroce scenario will simply be a repeat of what ensued in Union County when Assemblyman Eric Munoz died: his wife replaced him; no contest.
Another day today brought with it another establishment roll-out piece for DeCroce, as U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11) followed up Webber’s and state Sen. Joe Pennacchio’s (R-26) Betty Lou affirmation with his own thumbs-up.
But Casha points out that Morris County is organizationally different from Union and other area counties. Morris has an open convention process, demonstrably put to the test last year when incumbent Freeholder Margaret Nordstrom fought Tea Party challenger Hank Lyons to a stand-off that is still bogged down in the courts.
There was no lock-step vote total for Nordstrom out of the committee, and that war zone environment may be advantageous to Casha.
“There’s an underlying anger among the the rank and file, you saw it when they backed Hank Lyons,” said the candidate. “What’s happening in our country right now is fueling people, because the same old same old got us into the mess we’re in right now. (Morris GOP Chairman) John Sette is a prince. The man quite honestly respects an open primary in Morris County and I think he will defend that with his life. No chair has attempted to talk me out of it. John has been nothing but cooperative.”
Still fighting his court case, Lyons hasn’t involved himself in the developing DeCroce-Casha contest.
Given a short time frame in which to make his case, Casha said he’s working the phones.
“The balance of the district needs to be represented,” he said. “Jay and Betty Lou share the same post office – they’re four miles apart.”
Casha won’t speculate right now about what he intends to do if he loses next week at the convention. It’s not that he won’t rule out running in a primary. He simply won’t talk about it right now.
But he insists he’s in to win.
“I don’t put the uniform on and go out there unless I think I can win,” he said.