In the short time since Senate Minority Leader Steve Oroho announced that he would not seek re-election this year, two relatively new senators, Anthony Bucco (R-Boonton) and Michael Testa, Jr. (R-Vineland), have quickly emerged as leading candidates to become the next Republican leader of the New Jersey State Senate, multiple senators and party leaders told the New Jersey Globe.
Other potential contenders to replace Oroho are Joseph Pennacchio (R-Montville), Robert Singer (R-Lakewood), and Declan O’Scanlon (R-Little Silver).
The campaign could morph into a contest for Senate President if Republicans can parlay the new legislative map into a majority in the upcoming midterm election.
Several senators spoke highly of Bucco, a Morris County Republican and the current minority whip. He was on a trajectory to Assembly Minority Leader when he moved up to the State Senate following the unexpected death of his father, State Sen. Anthony R. Bucco, in 2019.
“I’m honored that the caucus feels that way about me,” said Bucco, who did not confirm or deny his interest in succeeding Oroho. “I’m upset that Senator Oroho has decided not to seek re-election. He’s been a good friend, and he’s done a great job.
Singer, who mounted a bid for the post in 2021 but stepped aside after Oroho secured the votes to succeed Thomas Kean, Jr., said it was inappropriate for a leadership contest to get in the way of a focus by GOP senators on the fall campaign.
“Anyone who is running while we’re trying to take back the majority is already on the wrong stage,” Singer said. “We need someone who wants to pick up seats. Maybe we’ll be in the majority.
Testa, who ousted an incumbent Democrat in a 2019 special election to flip Rep. Jeff Van Drew’s old State Senate seat, declined comment.
It’s impossible to tally the race without knowing the winners of open-seat primaries or the outcome of potentially competitive general election contests.