Anthony M. Bucco (R-Boonton) is expected to replace his late father in the New Jersey State Senate but will remain in the race for re-election to his 25th district Assembly seat, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
Several sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity say that if Bucco wins a sixth term in November, he will decline to take his Assembly seat and trigger a January special election convention to fill the vacancy.
That would set up November 2020 special elections for State Senate and one Assembly seat in a district that has become increasingly competitive for Democrats.
Should Bucco be unsuccessful in his re-election campaign, he would remain a State Senator.
The New Jersey Republican State Committee is preparing to notice Republican County Committee members in the 25th district of a special election convention. The convention will be run by the state party and will be scheduled for the middle of October.
Top state and Morris County Republicans, including longtime Bucco family political strategist Mike DuHaime, were on a call yesterday to determine the process to fill the Senate seat.
State Sen. Anthony R. Bucco (R-Boonton) died on September 16 after nearly 25 years in the Legislature and more than 40 years in public office. He was 81.
Republicans view Bucco as the strongest possible candidate to hold the 25th district seats in a hotly contested election against Democrats Lisa Bhimani and Darcy Draeger.
Leaving Bucco on the ballot this year allows Republicans to avoid paying the costs of printing and mailing new ballots, but the GOP will now need to finance an Assembly race next year — if he defeats Bhimani or Draeger.
Bucco does not have to resign his Assembly seat until he is sworn to the Senate. The Senate has no quorum calls set between the convention date and the general election.
Once the Senate swears in Bucco, Republicans will need to hold another special election convention to fill his Assembly seat. It’s possible that won’t occur until after the election, and the winner of that contest will serve until the Legislature reorganizes in January.
Some Republicans say that Denville Councilman Brian Bergen, Bucco’s running mate, could be tapped to take the open Assembly seat. Other Republicans insist that Bergen’s move to the legislature is not automatic.
Bucco could wind up running in as many as seven races over the next five years: the November 2019 general, and primaries and generals in 2020, 2021 and 2023, if he wins and holds a Senate seat.
One ranking Republican insider suggested that if Bucco is re-elected to the Assembly and Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) loses his own race, Bucco would have the option of resigning from the Senate to become Assembly Minority Leader.
Several Republicans view that option as so incredibly absurd that they refuse to dismiss it as possible.