Good Morning, New Jersey.
For the third time in five weeks, it’s Election Day in the 25th legislative district, where 277 Republican County Committee members will vote to fill a vacant seat in the New Jersey State Assembly.
The winner of tonight’s special election convention will be sworn in on November 25 to replace Anthony M. Bucco (R-Boonton) in the Assembly for the next seven weeks.
Bucco resigned on October 24, nine days after winning a special election convention for the State Senate seat vacated by his father, Anthony R. Bucco (R-Boonton), who died of a massive heart attack on September 16.
Six candidates are competing for Bucco’s seat:
* John Barbarula, 66, is an Assistant Morris County Counsel and operates a law firm in Butler. He has served as the Butler Planning Board attorney since 2004, and has been the Planning Board attorney in Riverdale since 1982. He has also served as a public defender in Hanover and the Board of Health attorney in Bloomfield and Riverdale. He lives in Randolph.
* Alison Deeb, 46, is a three-term Morristown councilwoman. She was elected in 2007 and re-elected in 2011 and 2015. Deeb lost her bid for re-election to the council in the November 5 general election.
* Aura Kenny Dunn, 48, served as district director for Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen from 2016 until Frelinghuysen’s retirement in almost eleven months. She worked on the staff of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee and as a lobbyist for Sesame Street. She lives in Mendham Township.
* Sarah Neibart, 27, is the deputy mayor of Mendham Township. She was appointed to fill a vacancy in 2018 and won a full-term last year. She worked on Chris Christie’s presidential campaign, managed Rep. Scott Garrett’s 2016 re-election bid, and was Bob Hugin’s deputy campaign manager in the 2018 U.S. Senate race.
* Robert Olejar, 68, practices law in Randolph, where his firm specializes in federal criminal defense trials and forensic accounting investigations.
* Al Ribeiro, 39, heads the Global Corporate Affairs team for the Oncology division at Pfizer. A former political consultant, he worked for Jamestown associates from 2002 to 2005, as New Hampshire political director for Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign, and as Michigan state director and Great Lakes regional campaign manager for John McCain in the 2008 general election. He lives in Bernardsville.
There are 277 eligible voters in the race and 139 county committee members must be in attendance for a quorum.
The election will be done by machine. A drawing held last week gave Neibart the top ballot position, followed by Dunn, Deeb, Ribeiro, Olejar and Barbarula.
If no candidate receives one vote more than 50% on the first ballot, a runoff will be held for the top two candidates.
There would be a second ballot if there is a tie for the top two slots.
It is unlikely that any of the six candidates will win a first ballot victory, which would take between 70 and 139 votes, depending on the turnout.
The four largest blocks of votes come from Randolph (36), Roxbury (33), Morris Township (29) and Denville (24).
Washington Township has 19 votes, followed by Boonton (16) and Morristown (12).
Eight municipalities have ten votes each: Bernardsville, Boonton Township, Chester Township, Mendham Borough, Mendham Township, Mountain Lakes, Rockaway Borough and Wharton.
Mount Arlington has 8 votes, followed by Dover (7), Mine Hill (6), Netcong (4), Chester Borough (2) and Victory Gardens (1).
Bernardsville is the only 25th district municipality from Somerset County.
This is the second Assembly campaign this year for Dunn and Barbarula.
Both ran in the June primary for the open seat of retiring Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R-Morris Township).
That race was won by Denville Councilman Brian Bergen, who won election to the Assembly on November 5.
Bergen defeated Dunn by 1,418 votes, with Barbarula finishing 144 votes behind Dunn.
Tonight’s special election convention is the latest stop in what has already been a peculiar chain of events.
Anthony R. Bucco died six days after the date that would have triggered a November 2019 special election for his Senate seat.
That allowed Republicans to fill the Senate seat until a November 2020 special election for the remaining fourteen months of Anthony R. Bucco’s term.
Anthony M. Bucco was unopposed for the Senate, but decided to continue his re-election bid for the 25th district Assembly seat.
Democrats made an issue of Bucco running for a seat he had no intention of keeping, although it’s not clear whether voters knew that their decision to re-elect Bucco would result in party insiders filling his seat.
Regardless of the outcome of tonight’s special election convention, there will be another vote early next year to fill the seat Bucco was just re-elected to.
Republicans are not obligated to select the winner of tonight’s short-term special election convention when they meet again in January or February.
Voters will get a say on the identity of their legislator in a November 2020 special election to fill the remaining fourteen months of Anthony M. Bucco’ Assembly term.
Both parties will hold special primary elections in June.
Dunn has received endorsements from Frelinghuysen and Morris County Freeholders Kathy DeFillippo, Douglas Cabana and Steven Shaw.
Neibart has the backing of Morris County Freeholders Deborah Smith and John Krickus.
The convention will be run by Acting Morris County Republican Chair Laura Marie Ali. The county chairman, Ronald DeFilippis, announced on Monday that he was temporarily stepping down for health and personal reasons.