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Assembly Candidate Aura Dunn
Assembly Candidate Aura Dunn. (Photo: Nikita Biryukov for the New Jersey Globe)

25th district Republicans in full throttle ahead of primary day

Aura Dunn gets some help from outside forces

By Nikita Biryukov, June 02 2019 6:07 pm

Republican candidates in the 25th legislative district aren’t taking any breaks ahead of Tuesday’s elections.

Aura Dunn, who served as now-former Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen’s chief of staff, and Denville Councilman Brian Bergen were out on the trail Sunday, the former knocking on doors and the latter posting signs along highway ramps.

Bergen said he planned to resume his door-knocking efforts later in the day.

Based on the word of the candidates’, the councilman has a lead in terms of direct voter contact at the doors. He said he’d spoken to roughly 2,000 of the district’s voters, while Dunn said she had contacted close to 1,500.

“I’m doing everything I possibly can to bring this home, so I’m not leaving any stone unturned. I’m not leaving a sign not put out. I’m not leaving a door not knocked. I’m going from the time I wake up until dark,” Bergen said. “I feel really good about it, but at the same time, either way it goes, I know there’s not a single thing more that I could have done.”

The two candidates, along with special assistant Morris County Counsel John Barbarula, are running to fill the seat of Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R-Morris Township), who is leaving the legislature after 24 years to run for Morris County Surrogate.

Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco (R-Boonton) is seeking re-election and is almost certain to emerge as the GOP primary’s top vote-getter.

Whatever pair emerges from the fray will face Democrat Chester Democratic municipal chair Darcy Draeger and Lisa Bhimani, who nearly came within 4 points of unseating State Sen. Tony Bucco in a district that has 8,278 more Republicans than Democrats in 2017.

The candidates plan to continue knocking on doors Monday, though their tacks will diverge slightly on primary day.

Bergen said he’d be manning the phones until polls close, while Dunn said she intends to make stops at area diners in addition to reminding voters that there’s an election Tuesday.

“There’s just not a whole lot that’s under your control at that point,” Dunn said. “But I’ll be reaching out to my neighbors, my friends and staying close to family for that support.”

Both Dunn and Bergen have sent their campaign messages to voters’ mailboxes.

Bergen said he’s sent out 10 mailers, most of which pushed his resume and policy positions, which include a call to oppose Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s sanctuary state proposal.

The councilman has been in voters mail boxes the longest.

His first mailer went out on November 9, 2018.

He followed those with additional mailers in January and February, when the race was still in its infancy.

Dune has sent out four mailers to the district generally. One of those mailers also included an attack on Murphy, though it focused on the governor’s approach to taxes.

But, her campaign is also getting a boost from targeted mailers bearing the name of Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce. Those mail pieces were sent out to voters who received a vote-by-mail ballot.

Though the tone of the election in the 25th has stayed far more civil than that of the eighth district’s Republican primary, there’s still been some conflict, particularly over DeCroce’s involvement in the race.

Bergen said he told DeCroce to stay out of his race following her endorsement of Dunn and Bucco, threatening to reciprocate and become involved in her race.

The councilman also indicated he wasn’t fully satisfied with the county’s Republican leadership.

“It is the elected officials’ responsibility at the top of the ticket to be the leaders,” Bergen said. “All too often in the past, every election that I’ve been part of, I watch the elected officials at the top of the ticket suck all of the resources up to help them and them alone, sometimes doing things under the guise of helping others, but the reality is that it was all self-serving.”

Since the start of that fight, DeCroce has introduced a bill that would bar firms from shielding the identities of paid political consultants.

Politicos in Morris County have recently raised alarms over the Checkmate Action Group, which operates out of a mail forwarding company in Wyoming and does not list its owners in their state corporate filing.

The group  is doing work for several campaigns in the GOP primary this year, including Bergen freeholder candidate Donald Dinsmore and surrogate candidate Isabella Alfano.

DeCroce isn’t the only member of the Assembly to wade into the 25th district’s race.

Assemblyman Ryan Peters and former Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield, who face an off-the-line bid from Assemblyman Joe Howarth, have also backed Dunn and Bucco.

Dunn will get a boost from yet more Republican politicians in the coming days.

Area mayors will hit the phones tomorrow to issue joint endorsements of her and Bucco.

Bucco has steadfastly refrained from endorsing a potential running mate, and at least for now, neither candidate has a problem with that.

“I’ve been really happy with the way this election’s been going, the way I’ve been running my campaign. I think the way I feel so strong and positive is because I’ve been running as my own candidate, so I feel really good about that,” Dunn said when asked about Bucco’s hands-off approach to the contested primary.

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