In Battleground LD25, are They ‘Murphy Democrats’ or ‘Sweeney Democrats?’ 

It’s only July (just barely) but the District 25 Assembly race in Morris County is already percolating.

It began soon after the primary with Democratic candidates Lisa Bhimani and Darcy Draeger calling on the Legislature to essentially protect the Affordable Care Act with state measures to help those with pre-existing conditions, allow kids to stay on their parents’ policy to age 26 and to establish a state-run health exchange. It is now run by the federal government.

That prompted incumbent Anthony M. Bucco to fire back, saying the Dems had  missed the mark. Other than the state assuming control of the exchanges, Bucco said he supported much of what the Democrats wanted.

That was Round One.

Round Two came a few days later when Brian Bergen, who is now Bucco’s runningmate after winning the GOP primary, sent out a release asking where the Democrats stood on the state budget. A short time later, Bucco did the same. For the record, Bucco voted “no” on the budget and Bergen said he would have done the same.

Asked about this, Bhimani and Draeger responded with a statement that said they want to fight to ensure that District 25 gets our “fair share in any budget. That means fully funding our schools. investing in our communities to create good paying jobs and providing real property tax relief – which is exactly what their opponents have repeatedly failed to accomplish.”

Fine and good, but what’s their view of the budget? Up or down? The candidates said they would let the statement stand as is.

This is not such an easy issue – politically – for Bhimani and Draeger. While Gov. Murphy signed the $38.7 billion budget the Democratic Legislature adopted, there were things about it he didn’t like.

It may not be all that appealing to chose one Democratic budget over another, but those are the decisions lawmakers have to make.  You know Republicans are going to press Bhimani and Draeger to stand with either Murphy or the Legislature on the budget and probably other issues.

In short, are they “Murphy Democrats” or “Sweeney Democrats?”

Still, the Democrats have some ammunition too.

They chided Bergen for “taking pot-shots across the aisle” and suggested he look at Bucco, “whose family dynasty has represented the district for decades and consistently failed to deliver for our communities.”

It’s hard to see the Bucco family as exactly a “dynasty,” but the substance here is accurate.

The assemblyman’s father, Anthony R. Bucco, has been in the Senate since winning the seat in 1997. He got to the Assembly in 1995. The younger Bucco was elected to the Assembly in 2009.

So for about the last 10 years, two of the three lawmakers representing District 25 have been from the same family. This is not necessarily unique in politics, but you can expect to hear more about “family ties” as the race unfolds.

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