Dems in Bucco World: The Nature of Politics, or Nature of the Beast

Bucco mailer in LD25

The sausage sandwich on a roll overflows with sauerkraut and a gooey cheese sauce. A piece of pie is on standby –  dessert of course. The diner apparently has a choice of two kinds of beer – light and dark, judging from the texture of the suds in two plastic cups. The man holding the sandwich in this Democratic campaign mailing is a smiling Anthony M. Bucco. The upshot of the piece by District 25 Assembly candidates Lisa Bhimani and Darcy Draeger is that Bucco is “gorged on taxpayer dollars”.  The mailer says the incumbent Republican has “used his political connections to secure seven different public jobs at once,” earning more than $2.3 million for his law firm in the process.

It’s a clever piece as political mailings go, And Bucco does have a a number of public jobs other than the Assembly, including serving as municipal attorney in Roxbury and Netcong, two towns in his district.

The Bucco camp, not surprisingly, says the assemblyman secures these posts because he’s a good town attorney.

The Democrats may make some political hay here, but then again, there is nothing uncommon about this. That’s not an endorsement; just an observation.

Take a look at any county in the state and you’ll find that many municipal jobs – attorney, prosecutor, public defender, auditor and the like – are held by the same person or company. It’s just the nature of politics.

Some lawmakers, of course, most of whom tend to be Democrats, go further than that – they hold two elected jobs simultaneously. For example, Senators Nick Sacco, Brian Stack and Paul Sarlo double as mayors of North Bergen, Union City and Wood-Ridge respectively.

During Chris Christie’s term in office, legislation was passed prohibiting dual-office holding, but those with multiple jobs at the time were grandfathered in.

Some may recall that early in his term, Christie also tried to stop lawmakers from having other public jobs. His plan would have limited elected officials to one paying public job.

That would have stopped Bucco from being a town attorney. And also stopped dozens, if not hundreds, of others from doing the same.

Not surprisingly, this idea went nowhere in the Legislature and Christie eventually seemed to forget about it. A pity.

District 25 Democrats may or may not, know about the history here.

Back in 1993, Democrat Gordon MacInnes made a big deal over the fact his GOP opponent, incumbent Sen. John Dorsey, also served a number of towns as municipal attorney. The MacInnes camp investigated Dorsey’s billing and alleged that he was submitting bills for work done for multiple towns at the same time. It made for a great TV ad and MacInnes won the election, becoming the last Democrat to win a primarily Morris County state legislative seat.

Four years later, MacInnes was defeated by the late Anthony R. Bucco, which shows, one supposes, how so much of regional politics is connected.

That may be fun to discuss over a sandwich and a few beers.

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