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New Assemblyman is a survivor

By ANTHONY GABBIANELLI

Staff Writer

Mar 31, 2022

TRENTON – Christian Barranco faced hardships, including unemployment, on his way to a seat

in the state Assembly.

After ousting longtime Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce in the Republican primary last June,

the first-time candidate was elected to represent the 26th Legislative District, along with

running mate Jay Webber, on Nov. 2.

The district includes Fairfield, North Caldwell, Verona and West Caldwell in Essex County;

Butler, Jefferson, Kinnelon, Lincoln Park, Montville, Morris Plains, Parsippany and Rockaway

Township in Morris County; and West Milford in Passaic County.

Barranco was born in 1969 and is a first-generation American. His father was born in Cuba; he

fled that country in 1961, settling in the Washington Heights section of New York City.

His mother immigrated from Buenos Aires, Argentina, about the same time, when that country

was going through economic hardships. She lived in Passaic County.

Barranco grew up in an apartment in Paterson before his family moved to Wayne when he was

18.

“It’s a typical American city,” he said about growing up in Paterson. “Very transitory. A lot of

immigrants, a lot of people of different races and colors and creeds I was raised with. There’s

not one race, color or creed that I don’t have a friend in.”

He studied engineering in college but did not finish his degree. He became a mechanical

designer, which at the time was not the best job to have.

“Manufacturing and design work, really that sort of work has died in New Jersey,” he said.

“Toward the end of my 20s, I started to find that it was hard to secure sort of gainful

employment in that world. In 2002, when I turned 32, I decided to join the electrical union,

Local 102.”

Barranco has been an electrician since then, working in Pompton Lakes as a journeyman and

wireman for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). He also worked as a

project manager with McPhee Electric and currently with Beach Electric Co.

He and his wife, Pauline, own Flowers Right Now, a florist company the couple started in 2011.

Long Unemployment

During the credit crunch in 2009, Barranco lost his job and was unemployed for 13 months.

“There was a lot of despair in the house, a lot of tough times for me and my wife and my

family,” he said. “It was a time there where we were broke. I promised myself that I would never

again sit back and take the government that I was given.

“I went about finding out what it takes to get into government with the parties. I never really

understood representative government. I learned what I could from school, but I didn’t learn it

in my household. So I went about teaching myself what that path looked and then I took the

path.”

He served on the Pompton Lakes Borough Council in 2017. After he moved to Jefferson in 2019,

he decided to run for the Assembly.

He became a candidate in the 2021 GOP primary with incumbents who joined the Assembly in

2012, when her husband, Assemblyman Alex DeCroce, died.

“People are still shocked, but I worked hard,” Barranco said, referring to the primary results. “I

worked very hard and I spoke to a lot of people. So that’s why I’m here.”

He credits his ability to speak directly with the voters for his unexpected victory over DeCroce.

Next year, because of redistricting, Barranco will be running in District 25, which will include

Jefferson along with towns with large Hispanic populations, such as Dover, Morristown and

Wharton.

“I’m bilingual, so I’m really looking forward to getting into those communities and just letting

them know that they have a person that understands their plight in the Assembly,” he said.

‘Great Partner’

Webber said he knew how important it was to have a man like Barranco on the ballot with him.

“He was a great partner and running mate,” he said. “He brought a new perspective to the

district. This is a union electrician, he’s the only Hispanic Republican in the Assembly and was

able to connect with Republican voters in our district in a unique way that obviously was

persuasive. He brought a lot to the ticket.”

Barranco’s background as a first-generation American with an Hispanic heritage led to his

election last year, Webber said. His ability to connect with those in situations similar to

Barranco’s early life also strengthened his appeal to voters, he added.

During the campaign, Barranco focused on three key issues that resonated with many

supporters. The biggest issue was how to make New Jersey affordable to the middle class and

working people.

“I told people many times standing on their front stoop, ‘Affordability is an intractable problem,’

” he said. “It takes enormous political will to change the affordability of the people … . Our

public-sector economy is disproportionately large. We have too many public employees. We’ve

spent too much taxpayer money. We can’t all work for the government.

“We need to incentivize and we need to grow our private-sector economy. It is the only

pathway we have to get out of the economic problems that we have in this state.”

Another campaign promise Barranco made was to win people their medical freedom. In

particular, he spoke about abortion and COVID-19 mandates.

“The larger, more active political efforts with respect to the sovereignty of your own body is

abortion,” he said. “I don’t support abortion. And the biggest argument that I have for that is

and I tell everybody, ‘Listen, our mother didn’t give up on you.’ Why should we permit mothers

to give up on their children? I know my mother didn’t give up on me. I didn’t give up on my

three kids. My wife didn’t give up on her three kids. I believe life is sacred.

“So medical freedom, the ability to say, ‘Listen, I don’t want to be vaccinated. I don’t need to be

vaccinated.’ I had Covid. I have all the antibodies I need for the future to defeat Covid again. So

I’m not vaccinated and I won’t be vaccinated.”

School Choice

He also spoke about the ability to choose which schools children could attend based on the

curriculum.

“Our schools have become laboratories for re-engineering human society. I don’t approve of

that,” he said. “I think that parents should have greater control over what their children learn. I

don’t believe that school boards are the ones that should be making decisions with respect to

curriculum in schools. I think that our schools right now do way too much campaigning in the

minds of children, teaching them things in politics that school has no place doing.

“There’s curriculum that’s being taught in schools, that is teaching children that American

history is somehow evil. I don’t believe in critical race theory. I believe that that’s created by

sociology departments and the universities of this country that are completely radicalizing the

population that graduates from those institutions.

“I never thought in a million years that institutions of higher learning could become basically

indoctrination centers. Teach the kids how to read, how to write, teach the kids critical thinking,

advanced mathematics, things of that nature, and let people be people.

“This continued push to reorganize or revolutionize human society, it’s not going anywhere.

The only thing it’s doing is it’s angering people. So I think we need to scale that back a little bit

and let people arrive at their own conclusions.”

Barranco also said he believes that the United States has made great strides in helping the

disadvantaged. Enough has been done to help under-served individuals, whether they are

African-American, Hispanic or of other minority groups, assimilate into society, he said.

As a part of the Assembly, Barranco was assigned to a variety of committees.

“I am a member of the Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee,” he said. “I’m a

member of the Telecommunication Utilities Committee, which is right at my wheelhouse

because I’m an electrician, and I’m a member of the Science, Innovation and Technology

Committee.”

Part of the latter committee’s work is dealing with cybersecurity. With Russia’s invasion of

Ukraine, Barranco and other committee members are watching for cyber attacks in this

country.

“Warfare is not only on the battlefield anymore. Warfare is very much in cyberspace,” he said.

“With conflicts like this throughout the globe, you’ll see tremendous increases in cyber attacks

during these conflicts because they use the internet to sort of cast information out into the

world. They use the internet to manipulate and for propaganda. So we’re going to start seeing

quite a bit of that if we haven’t started to start to see it already.”

Contact Anthony Gabbianelli at anthonyg@newjerseyhills.com

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