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Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco.

Too early to pick running mate, Bucco says

Assemblyman may, may not weigh in on GOP primary

By Nikita Biryukov, February 14 2019 12:55 pm

Assemblyman Anthony Bucco (R-Boonton) may or may not end up weighing in on the Republican contest to replace Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R-Morris Township), who is leaving Trenton at the end of the year to run for Morris County Surrogate.

“The field is still developing, and until the entire field is developed, I’m just going to sit back and watch and listen to what each of my potential running mates has to say,” Bucco said. “At some point, yea, I’ll either decide to run on my own and see what the district feels is important to them in terms of a running mate for me.”

So far, three candidates — Denville councilman Brian Bergen, attorney John Barbarula, and Aura Dunn, who served as Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen’s district director — are making moves for Carroll’s seat.

The winner of the intra-party contest may prove critical to Republicans’ continued control of the district come November. Hot off of wins in the seventh and 11th congressional districts, Democrats are targeting the district.

Lisa Bhimani and Darcy Draeger, both of whom were involved in 2018 congressional campaigns, are seeking the districts Assembly seats as Democrats.

Draeger was Morris County Campaign Chairwoman for Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Rocky Hill) in 2018, and Bhimani ran against Bucco’s father, State Sen. Tony Bucco, in 2017. She lost by about 2,500 votes, a stark improvement for a candidate from a party that did not even run a candidate in the district in 2013.

So, the younger Bucco might end up being well served by hand-selecting his running mate, but he said he’s about as likely to do that as not.

“If I think it’s important for the district, I’ll weigh in and choose someone and go forward, but at this point, it’s kind of too early,” Bucco said.

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