Assemblyman Tony Bucco and Denville Councilman have won the Republican nod in the 25th legislative district, defeating Aura Dunn, an aide to former Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, and attorney John Barbarula.
The two will go on to face Democrat Chester Democratic municipal chair Darcy Draeger and physician Lisa Bhimani, who came within four points of unseating State Sen. Tony R. Bucco last year.
Bucco was far and away the race’s top vote-getter. He had 8,218 ballots cast in his name.
Bergen got 4,916 votes.
Dunn and Barbarula got 3,505 and 3,382, respectively.
The assemblyman’s primary victory was close to a foregone conclusion, but a Republican victory in November is far from assured.
Races in the 25th district have tightened significantly since the election of President Donald Trump.
in 2015, Assemblyman Bucco and Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, whose choice to leave the legislature to run for Morris County Surrogate allowed for such a contested Republican primary, beat the top Democratic challenger by eight and seven points, respectively.
In 2017, they each won by just two points, though it’s worth noting there were State Senate and gubernatorial elections that year, while Assembly races were at the top of the ticket in 2015.
Unlike some of the other Republican-held districts hosting competitive elections this year, the GOP holds the registration edge in the 25th, though that lead has shrunk in recent years.
As of June 1, there were 8,243 more registered Republicans in the 25th than there were Democrats. That’s down from the 10,744-person registration edge they had in on election day in 2017.
Unaffiliated voters — there are 57,871 of them in the district — make up the largest voting bloc in the 25th.
Still, Democratic Reps. Mikie Sherrill and Tom Malinowski won the 25th by a combined 9,479 votes, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton managed to eke out a 25-vote win there in 2016.
Clearly, voter registration doesn’t decide elections.
The same can be said of money, but a big bankroll never hurts a campaign.
Fundraising and spending figures up-to-date through primary day are not yet available, but 11-day pre-primary reports filed with the Election Law Enforcement Commission showed Assemblyman Bucco had the largest war chest of any candidate in the race with $140,183 in reserves.
Draeger and Bhimani were next in line with $93,576 banked.
Bergen raised the most of the three candidates seeking Carroll’s seat, with his $55,707 raised a few weeks out from Tuesday almost doubling Dunn’s $30,471 and coming close to tripling Barbarula’s $20,956.
Though Assemblyman Bucco has steadfastly avoided picking a running mate, Dunn was the favorite of some Morris County politicians, including Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce.
Barbarula was something of a dark horse in the race, with his ballot position — he appears at the top, directly above Bucco — giving him an edge over the two others seeking Carroll’s seat.
Bergen was the first candidate to get into the race. He sent out his first mailer the day after last year’s election.