Sunlight must admit that this came as quite a surprise: it appears that ASW Betty Lou DeCroce, Republican Assemblywoman from the 26th legislative district, received massive support from the NJEA for her 2021 Republican primary election campaign.
All told, the NJEA’s Super PAC, Garden State Forward spent $198,000 on mailings and digital ads in LD26 for this year’s primary election, and there are good reasons to believe that all of this money was spent supporting her candidacy.
DeCroce was the only LD26 candidate endorsed by the NJEA. Described by InsiderNJ as a “pro-union,” “moderate,” and “work-with-the-Democrats” politician, last year DeCroce sponsored the NJEA’s long-sought-after Chapter 44 healthcare legislation and co-sponsored another NJEA-supported bill. DeCroce has received generous support from the NJEA during her five terms in the Assembly: her $39,800 in NJEA direct contributions is more than any other New Jersey Republican has received over the last ten years.
By contrast, her opponents, ASM Jay Webber and Christian Barranco, have never received any contributions from the NJEA.
$198,000 is a lot of money for a low-turnout Republican primary. Not since Fran Grenier’s unsuccessful bid to unseat Senate President Steve Sweeney in 2017 has a Republican garnered this sort of NJEA support. But it was apparently not enough, as DeCroce did not get the Morris county line on the ballot and lost a close race with Barranco.
The NJEA supports legislative Democrats over Republicans by a very large margin, but its substantial support for DeCroce shows once again just how much money the NJEA can bring to bear when it chooses. As the NJEA has shown in the past, it is willing to support Republicans generously when it believes they will help the NJEA in the legislature or serve the NJEA’s purposes (like Grenier). DeCroce is another example of that.
The key take-away is that with its $145 million in taxpayer funding every year, the NJEA can afford to drop $198,000 in a minority-party primary. And anywhere else it chooses.