By John Celock
Two twenty-something Republican candidates in Morris County, N.J. were defeated in their primary bids for office Tuesday night.
Morris County Freeholder Hank Lyon, 29, was defeated in his bid to capture the Republican nomination for a seat in the state Assembly, while Mike Crispi, 24, was defeated in his bid for the Republican nomination for Lyon’s seat on the Freeholder Board. Lyon’s race had been one of the most watched Republican legislative primaries in the state, as he waged a battle to unseat an incumbent assemblywoman.
Lyon received 21 percent in a four-way battle for two GOP nods for the Assembly in the 26th district. Lyon was third behind Assemblyman Jay Webber who received 33 percent and Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce who received 28 percent. Morris County Freeholder John Cesaro finished fourth with 19 percent.
Lyon, a two term county freeholder, directed most of his campaign against DeCroce, a third term assemblywoman. Lyon attacked DeCroce’s vote for the state’s gas tax hike last year, a popular target for conservative Republicans in the state. DeCroce focused on her incumbency and ties to the state’s Republican establishment. DeCroce, a former deputy state community affairs commissioner, was first appointed to the Assembly in 2012 to succeed her late husband, former Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce.
Lyon has long been viewed as a conservative leader in the Morris County GOP, with his 2011 freeholder run focusing on a more conservative bent than his opponent, then Freeholder Margaret Nordstrom. Lyon narrowly edged Nordstrom in the 2011 primary, but Nordstrom claimed that Lyon cheated in the election by filing a late campaign finance report. A judge sided with Nordstrom, installing her as the GOP nominee in the general election, which she won. In 2012, another judge ruled with Lyon saying that Nordstrom should not have been installed as the GOP nominee and effectively clearing the way for Lyon to become a freeholder.
Lyon did not seek a third term as a county freeholder in order to run for the Assembly.
In the freeholder primary, Crispi finished fourth among four candidates for Lyon’s seat with eight percent of the vote. Roxbury Board of Adjustment member Heather Darling won the primary with 32 percent of the vote, followed by former Freeholder Dave Scapiccio with 31 percent of the vote and Harding Township Committeeman Nicholas Platt with 29 percent of the vote.
Crispi focused on his age in the race, noting that he wanted to work on diversifying the county and changing the image of the Republican Party as a party of “old white men.”