Though some might have invariably looked on with disgust at the unholy alliance between labor unions and one of the freeholder teams that delivered two of its candidates to victory in last night’s Morris County primary, state Senator Joe Pennacchio (R-26) wasn’t one of them.
In fact, he has a message for Republicans statewide: let Morris County be a lesson to you.
“We worked closely with the trades, and they’re not the third rail,” Pennacchio told PolitickerNJ last night in Morristown. “They’re a good bunch of solid people. They have a presence in Morris County, the IEBW is on Parsippany Road, the Teamsters have a huge building right behind the tower building. You have Caarpenters with 700 members in Morris County, 570 registered Republican voters. We want these. Ronald Reagan sought their help, Chris Christie sought their help. I sought their help. The people that criticize me for using their help, also sought their help.”
“We’ve got to change as a party. I think tonight is the beginning of that change,” he added.
Pennacchio was referring to the unprecedented level of involvement from Democratic and labor-aligned political action committees in the county freeholder race this year, which poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaigns of Pennacchio-backed candidates John Cesaro, firefighter Angelo Tedesco and Mendham Township businesswoman Christine Myers, in a contest against incumbents Dave Scapicchio and John Krickus and Denville Councilwoman Deb Smith. The result was ultimately a split-ticket, with Cesaro and Myer winning seats and Smith landing the top vote-getter spot.
Though controversial, some saw the PAC money as one of the deciding factors in that contest. And Pennacchio, far from being the political anathema some claim them to be, thinks the result should serve to show that labor groups do have a place in the state GOP.
“We have to grow that party. They’re the low-lying fruit. They think like us, they talk like us, they fly their flags on cranes as you drive down the Garden State Parkway. Hopefully this will be a turning point not only in Morris County but statewide,” he said. “I want Republican voters to take a look at what happened in Morris County, and I want them to say, you know what, they worked closely with these guys. They did well. And what was the promise? Good government. I’ve worked with labor, and that’s the only thing I’ve ever promised. We want them to work. And the difference between us and Democrats, is when they work, we want them to keep most of what they earn.”