U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez joined a number of the state’s other top Democrats in declining to criticize Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco for running for both the State Senate and the Assembly with the intention of only keeping the former seat.
“You know, that’s a question to be decided by the Republican party and the Republican party voters, and they will decide whether or not that’s appropriate,” Menendez said. “I have enough challenges within the Democratic party, so I will allow the Republican party to figure out their pathway forward on that.”
Bucco is the clear frontrunner to succeed his late father, State Sen. Anthony R. Bucco, in the Senate, but he’s also Republicans’ top candidate for Assembly in the 25th legislative district.
Under state law, the assemblyman can only hold one of the two seats.
He’d have to give up his seat in the legislature’s lower chamber before moving up to the Senate after a special election held by the district’s Republican County Committee people on Oct. 15.
Other Democratic leaders — including Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Democratic State Chairman John Currie and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin — have been unwilling to criticize the younger Bucco for the maneuver.
Lisa Bhimani and Darcy Draeger, his Democratic opponents for the Assembly, attacked Bucco over the same, claiming through a spokesman that he was attempting to defraud voters.
By remaining on the ballot with the intention of declining the assembly seat if he wins, Bucco is essentially asking voters to trust the district’s Republican county committee people to pick a replacement.
That person won’t be on the ballot ahead of time.
Though the deadline to replace a general election candidate on the ballot had passed when the elder Bucco died of a heart attack earlier this month, judges in New Jersey often ignore such deadlines.
Judicial guidance for election law is to err on the side of access, and the state’s judges frequently ignore the letter of the law in favor of ballot access.
Though, mail-in ballots have already been printed and sent out, and some early votes have already been cast.
It’s possible to have those ballots re-printed, but the Republican party would be the one footing the bill.