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Dems Close to Advancing Challengers’ Ticket in LD26

Democrats are close to filling the party Assembly ticket in District 26 in northwest New Jersey. The likely candidates are Laura Fortgang of Verona and Christine Clarke of Jefferson.

An email message to the party faithful from Matt Clarkin, the chair of the Parsippany Democratic Committee, says that the expected special guests at a meeting Wednesday night are “Laura Fortgang and Christine Clarke, candidates for state Assembly in Legislative District 26.”

Clarke subsequently confirmed she was running in an electronic message of her own.

“Yes, I am getting ready for a run,” it said.

Reached by phone, Fortgang said she is considering a run, but it’s not yet official.

Clarke ended her message by expressing thanks to those who are already supporting her and added, “It’s going to be a fun year.”

That, of course, remains to be seen.

Morris County Democrats have been enthusiastic about their chances in neighboring District 25, where there will be only one GOP incumbent, Anthony M. Bucco, on the ballot. Moreover, the party is encouraged by a strong showing in the district in 2017. The three legislative Democratic candidates lost by about 2,500 votes, A loss is a loss, but the margin was much smaller than it had been in previous years.

District 26, which includes eastern Morris County, plus four towns in suburban Essex and one, West Milford, in Passaic seems on the surface more difficult for Democrats. Republican incumbents Jay Webber and BettyLou DeCroce were reelected to their seats two years ago by about  7,000 votes each. Party similarities, notwithstanding, Webber and DeCroce have not always seen eye-to-eye. That split broke into the open last year when DeCroce backed Antony Ghee, and not Webber, for the party’s District 11 congressional nomination.

Democratic hopes in 26 may be bolstered by the fact Parsippany, the largest municipality in the district, has been leaning their way of late. Over the last two general election cycles, township voters elected a Democratic mayor and supported Democrat Mikie Sherrill for Congress.

Fortgang ran for the Assembly two years ago, losing in the Democratic primary. Clarke is the chair of the Jefferson Township Democratic Committee.