All Hands on Deck in Bucco World

A flurry of negative ads is making the only legislative race on the card this year fun to watch.

This would be District 25, which covers northern and western Morris County,  and one town, Bernardsville, in Somerset. A special election is taking place after last year’s death of state Sen. Anthony R. Bucco.

The late senator’s son, Anthony M. Bucco, who got to the Senate via a GOP convention, is running to keep the seat along with Republican Assemblywoman Aura Dunn, who replaced the younger Bucco in the lower house.

The Democrats are Rupande Mehta for Senate and Darcy Draeger for Assembly.

A recent TV ad on behalf of the Republicans slams Draeger for taking advantage of a “shady tax break.”

This is not a new charge. The tax break in question is real, but not shady at all.

As was pointed out when she ran unsuccessfully for the Assembly last year, Draeger operates a farm in Chester Township, and as such, qualifies for a farmland assessment. This means her family pays virtually no property taxes on the roughly 9-acre farm. But they do pay about $24,000 in taxes annually on their home.

The farmland assessment program is designed to encourage farming in the nation’s most congested state. Republicans clearly think they have a meaningful issue here, but every farm owner in New Jersey can take advantage of the same tax break Draeger has.

One way to curtail the practice is to raise the qualification threshold. Farmers in most cases must sell at least $1,000 worth of products annually to qualify for the assessment. That does seem pretty low, but don’t expect that assessment to be raised anytime soon, given the fact this issue tends to pop up only at election time.

The Democrats haven’t been shy about exaggerating things either.

A mailer this week by the state Democratic Committee claims that “Anthony Bucco Junior has always prioritized politics over you.”

The seeming intent is to make sure people do not confuse the younger Bucco with his late father. But as every reporter covering the state knows, the younger Bucco is not a junior. Father and son have different middle names.

The piece also notes that “Bucco junior was given his seat in the state Senate ….”

This is a reference to Bucco being appointed by a Republican convention.

But guess what? Democrats fill legislative vacancies the same way.

Maybe, the lesson here is not to take campaign ads and literature too seriously.

At any rate, all four District 25 candidates will meet Friday night in a forum sponsored by the Morris County Leagues of Women Voters.

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