Bucco: ‘I Respect the Senate President’

Bucco of Morris

TRENTON – It’s not all that easy to get to Trenton from Morris County, but Anthony M. Bucco knows the way.

And when he made the trip Thursday morning from Boonton Township to the Statehouse, it was with mixed emotions.

Tempering his ascension from the Assembly to the Senate was how it came about – the death last month of his father, Anthony R. Bucco.

The younger Bucco, who recalled visiting the Senate chamber when his father first won his seat in 1997, took the oath at precisely 11:19 a.m. There was no other Senate business for the day, so the only official action Bucco took was pushing the voting button to announce he was “present.”

As is customary, Bucco was selected to fill his father’s seat at an Oct. 15 convention of GOP committee members from the 25th District.

With about two dozen or so Morris County Republicans on hand for the oath-taking, Bucco said he wanted to concentrate on making New Jersey more affordable, ensuring safe communities and full funding of schools. The last point is a perennial Morris County concern.

Prior to the ceremony, Senate leaders took turns praising the new senator’s father.

“This is where he (the elder Bucco) did the people’s business of Morris County and Somerset County,” said Tom Kean Jr., the Senate Minority Leader.

Democrat Steve Sweeney, the Senate President, was equally effusive, calling the late senator a  “giant,” and a man of his word.

Sweeney was certainly being sincere, but the timing of the swearing-in seemed to have a political tint. This is something the Senate President controls.

Bucco formally resigned his Assembly seat Thursday morning, but he remains on the ballot for reelection to the Assembly on Nov, 5. If he wins, he will not accept the new Assembly term, which begins next January.

This all has to do with simple politics. Republicans seem convinced it’s preferable to have Bucco on the ballot – as opposed to a possible last minute replacement candidate – to keep the seat in the GOP column. If Bucco wins, the same type of convention that elevated Bucco to the Senate will pick a new Assembly member.

Democrats, of course, have criticized the arrangement, noting that Bucco is running for an Assembly seat he’s not going to take. Swearing-in Bucco as a senator prior to the election seems to reinforce that point.
Bucco said afterwards that he would have liked the swearing-in to take place after Nov. 5.

But he added, “I respect the Senate President.”

Taking a Senate seat while still running for the Assembly is the “latest striking proof of his contempt for voters and insistence on disregarding the democratic process,” read a statement on behalf of District 25 Democratic candidates Lisa Bhimani and Darcy Draeger.
The Democrats urged Bucco to be honest about his “fake candidacy” for the Assembly
They have called on Bucco to publicly state who he wants to replace him in the lower House if he wins on Nov. 5.
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