Click play for audio version of this story
Democratic challengers in the 25th district called for Assemblyman Anthony Bucco to condemn language on the website Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick’s law firm that promised its attorneys would seek to discredit sexual assault victims.
“Anthony Bucco must immediately condemn his colleague’s indefensible stance and explain how his own law firm has handled cases of sexual assault,” Darcy Draeger said. “There is no place in our community — and certainly not in government — for anyone who disparages survivors.”
Since-removed language on the website of Bramnick’s law firm, which was first reported by the New Jersey Globe, said “we will investigate your case and seek to discredit your accuser,” among other things.
The language has spawned a wave of criticism from Democrats and advocates for sexual assault victims.
“As an OB/GYN, I cared for victims of sexual assault nearly every day,” Lisa Bhimani said. “I could not be more disgusted by this misogynistic rhetoric that discourages victims from coming forward and seeking the care they need.”
Draeger and Bhimani are seeking to oust Bucco and win retiring Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll’s seat. Denville Councilman Brian Bergen is the second Republican nominee in the 25th.
Through a spokesman, Bucco defended Bramnick and leveled an attack at the Democrats over similar problems in Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration.
“Jon has voted for at least a dozen anti-harassment and sexual predator bills to protect women. The website language written by others was taken down immediately and he apologized for its content,” Rob Costello said. “The irony, of course, is that Ms. Bhimani and Ms. Draeger are trying to have it both ways. They should live up to their own standard and call on Governor Murphy to release women in his campaign from gag orders still in effect today regarding the alleged sexual misconduct that took place under his leadership.”
State Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency chief of staff Katie Brennan accused former Schools Development Authority chief of staff Al Alvarez of sexually assaulting her in April 2017, when he was in charge of Muslim and Latino outreach for Murphy’s campaign, for which Brennan would volunteer.
Advocates for sexual assault victims in the legislature, including Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg have called for Murphy to release campaign and transition staff from non-disclosure agreements they fear could bar them from reporting instances of sexual assault or harassment.
Murphy’s campaign has insisted that those NDAs did not and do not prevent victims from coming forward, and Murphy earlier this year signed a law that essentially banned the use of NDAs and forced contracts in employment contracts in such cases.
In response to Brennan’s allegations, Murphy’s administration created a new set of guidelines for reporting sexual harassment or assault.