Listen to audio version of this article
Anthony Bucco is wasting no time.
Soon after his renomination in Morris County’s 25th District was assured Tuesday night, the GOP incumbent dished out a statement evoking the names of Bernie Sanders and the latest villain for Republicans, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in lambasting his Democratic opponents.
Bucco, whose nomination was not in doubt, asserted that Democrats Lisa Bhimani and Darcy Draeger belong to the “far left Bernie Sanders/Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wing” of the Democratic Party.
On one hand, this is a typical reaction – label your opponents extremists as a matter of course.
At the same time, you need to ask how effective this time-honored strategy will be. Recall that Jay Webber wrapped himself around Donald Trump and tried to label Mike Sherrill a far-out lefty in last year’s House race and that didn’t work out too well for Webber.
Yes, there are differences. More people care about Congress than they do the state Assembly,. meaning that more “non political junkies” voted last year. Still, there is some geographic overlap here in Morris County, which incidentally, Sherrill and fellow Dem Tom Malinowski carried by about 14,000 votes combined last year. And the 25th is definitely more competitive than it was a decade or so ago.
Republicans still hold the voter registration lead, but it’s down to 8,000.
Democrats are understandably upbeat. They can point to last year’s success and take heart (practically speaking) that President Trump, who has done immense harm to the Republican brand in New Jersey, is still around to fuel Democratic interest and turnout.
Then, there’s abortion, which can’t be overlooked as a key issue. As Republican state Legislatures across the land essentially move to ban abortion, it’s becoming more important what state reps think about the topic. It makes no difference that Democratic control of the Legislation means abortion rights in New Jersey are safe. This still figures to be an issue this fall.
And that’s going to help Democrats. Putting aside some of the nuances involves, I’m convinced a majority of residents in Morris County want to keep abortion legal, and that’s going to help Democrats, not pro-life Republicans.
Still, there may be trouble ahead for Democrats.
The seeming inability of Democrats to govern the state in a civilized manner will do Bhimani and Draeger no good. Democrats control the state and are fighting among themselves, so much so that it looks as if passing a budget is going to be a challenge. But it’s more than that. We also have the administration’s mishandling of the Katie Brennan case and the ongoing probe involving tax incentives to businesses connected to Democratic power broker George Norcross.
This turmoil is going to put all Democratic candidates on the spot and force them to take a side – sort of at least. For example, what’s their view on the millionaire’s tax and legalizing recreational pot, which are two of the issues dividing the governor and Democratic leaders in the Legislature.
Looking at this race five months in advance, it seems as if Bucco and his newly-anointed ticketmate Brian Bergen would do well to forget about Mr. Sanders and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez – has either of them visited Morris County? – and concentrate on Trenton.
Yet, it remains both interesting and a bit amusing how AOC has so inflamed Republicans. Recall how her name even popped up in Morris’ just concluded GOP freeholder primary.
How many people can say that?