Democrat Lisa Bhimani, who nearly ousted State Sen. Anthony R. Bucco last year, will challenge incumbent Anthony M. Bucco for State Assembly in the 25th district in 2019.
Bhimani held Bucco to a 52%-48% margin in 2017 in a district that has 9,332 more Republicans than Democrats. She now taking aim at Bucco’s son, a five-term assemblyman who has been viewed as heir apparent for his father’s senate seat.
The Mendham Township physician was the top recruitment choice of Assembly Democrats, who view the 25th as a potential pickup next year. Bhimani is expected to make a formal later this month.
“Last year, Dr. Bhimani waged a tremendous race distinguishing herself as a formidable candidate in the future,” said Michael Muller, who heads the Assembly Democratic campaign committee. “We couldn’t be more excited that she will be running for assembly.”
Republican Michael Patrick Carroll, in office since 1996, is not seeking re-election.
Morris County Republicans are expected to have a primary fight for Carroll’s seat. So far, only Denville councilman Brian Bergen has entered the race.
While the Morris County district, which also includes Bernardsville in Somerset, has been held by Republicans since 1979, Democrats have made major gains in recent years. Hillary Clinton won the 25th, albeit by just 18 votes, and Democratic congressional candidates combined for a 9,479-vote win on November 6.
Democrats won control of one of the largest town’s in the district, Morris Township, this cycle. One of the Republicans who lost re-election was Bruce Sisler, Assemblyman Bucco’s chief of staff and a potential candidate for Carroll’s seat.
Since her last campaign, Bhimani took a leadership role in March for Our Lives, a group that advocated gun safety. Bucco has a 100% rating from the National Rifle Association.
She became the Morris County Democratic vice chair in 2017 and helped elect two Democrats, Mikie Sherrill and Tom Malinowski, to the U.S. House of Representatives.
The 25th includes 21 municipalities in Morris and Somerset counties: Bernardsville, Boonton Borough and Boonton Township, Chester Borough and Chester Township, Denville, Dover, Mendham Borough and Mendham Township, Mine Hill, Morris Township, Morristown, Mount Arlington, Mountain Lakes, Netcong, Randolph, Rockaway, Roxbury, Victory Gardens, Washington, and Wharton.