The death of State Sen. Anthony R. Bucco (R-Boonton) in September has set up a series of changes in the Republican leadership team in both houses of the New Jersey Legislature, regardless of the outcome of the 2019 mid-term elections.
Bucco was the Senate Minority Conference Leader at the time of his death, having posts with Senate Minority Budget Officer Steve Oroho (R-Franklin) earlier this year.
The most likely successor to Bucco is State Sen. Christopher Brown (R-Ventnor), who is the Deputy Minority Conference Leader. That will create another opening on the Senate Republican leadership team.
There are seven leadership posts available for the fourteen Senate Republicans. To repeat the easy math: one out of two GOP senators are leaders.
It appears that Thomas Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) will seek re-election to a seventh two-year term as Senate Minority Leader. He first won the post after the 2007 election, ousting incumbent Leonard Lance (R-Clinton Township).
There has been speculation that Kean might give up the Minority Leader job while campaigning for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives next year.
His father, Thomas Kean, Sr., gave up the Assembly Minority Leader post in 1977 to launch a campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Kean, who had been Speaker from 1972 to 1974, retained his position as Minority Leader when he ran for Conrgess in a June 1974 primary.
As Minority Leader, Kean picks the leadership posts — with the consent of his caucus.
Bucco’s death has also triggered a vacancy in the Assembly Republican leadership. He was the Minority Conference Leader, the number two post, until his resignation last Thursday to replace his father in the Senate.
It’s not immediately clear who will replace him, and there is unlikely to be any real consideration for the post until after the November 5 general election.
The hesitation in a contest for Assembly GOP leadership is based on the possibility that Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) could lose his bid for re-election to his own 21st district Assembly seat.
Some Republicans are already maneuvering for Minority Leader, just in case Bramnick loses. That caused Bramnick’s staff to make calls last month shoring up support for re-election as leader, just in case.
If Bramnick loses, it’s likely that his running mate, Minority Whip Nancy Munoz (R-Summit), would also be returning to Trenton. Munoz is the number three person on the Republican leadership team in the lower house.
It’s possible that Bramnick could win without Munoz, which would mean openings for Conference Leader and Whip.
The Assembly Minority Budget Officer, John DiMaio (R-Hackettstown) is widely viewed a candidate for Minority Leader if Bramnick loses, but he’s unlikely to give up his appropriations role to replace Bucco or Munoz.
More on the Minority Race coming soon.