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RANDOLPH – Tonight, Republican Aura Dunn prevailed on the first ballot at a special convention to fill the LD25 vacancy in the Assembly.
This was for the seat left behind by Senator Tony Bucco (R-25), which he won on Nov. 5th but abandoned to fill the senate seat left behind by his father, who died this fall.
In the end it was no contest.
Dunn’s support was so convincing Thursday night that a second ballot was not needed.
Dunn, a onetime aide to Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, crushed the competition and won an open District 25 Assembly seat with more than 70 percent of the vote. The other five candidates in the race to replace now Senator Anthony M. Bucco were not even in hailing distance.
Dunn, who lost in the primary last June, took note of the six-person field, saying it was time to join together and to fight Gov. Phil Murphy’s agenda.
In her speech before the vote, Dunn lambasted the alleged socialistic flavor of the Murphy administration. Dunn will be sworn in Monday and will complete Bucco’s term, which runs through January. Another convention will then be held to pick an Assembly person to fill the term that begins next year. Keep in mind that Bucco won that seat this month, but will not accept it because he has moved to the Senate to replace his late father.
Dunn was endorsed by three of the seven freeholders – Kathy DeFillippo, Doug Cabana and Steve Shaw. This follows an earlier endorsement of her by onetime Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, who has spent much of the year out of the public eye.
This was merely a convention election, but the Morris County Republican Committee to its credit gave it a lot of attention.
The website of the Morris GOP offered bios of all six candidates, giving each a chance to sell their attributes. They’re not all the same, party allegiance notwithstanding.
For example, John Barbarula says he represents “true conservative principles.”
Alison Deeb calls herself a “moderate Republican,” while stressing a fiscal conservative approach.
Dunn says she’s willing “to fight for you in Trenton.”
Neibart stresses her work with Citizens for Accountable Taxation or CAT, a group she founded to look for ways to reduce New Jersey property taxes.
The other two candidates are largely unknown in Morris political circles.
Al Ribeiro of Bernardsville – the only non-Morris town in the district – says he is experienced in bringing people together “to find solutions to challenging problems.”
And then there is Bob Olejar, who says his background as a lawyer and forensic accountant gives him a “unique perspective” on issues.
In the end, it Dunn who won.
Jon Bramnick is feeling pretty good these days.
The GOP Assembly leader welcomed the party faithful to tonight’s convention to pick a new District 25 Assembly member by proclaiming that the tide in New Jersey is running strongly against Phil Murphy’s extreme agenda.
“We picked up seats,” Bramnick said referring to the recent legislative election. And ever the comedian, Bramnick warned whoever wins the seat to prepare to be shocked by the governor’s 2020 budget.
The next speaker was Anthony M. Bucco, the man being replaced at tonight’s convention.
Bucco refrained from endorsing one of the six candidates in the race, but he did offer an interesting observation as the party moves forward. Noting how the Morris County Republican Committee prides itself on “open primaries,” Bucco said next year is not the time for that.
His point was that with Democrats spending more money and putting up more of a fight, Republicans can’t afford internal strife. That’s a nice sentiment, but it’s hard to see it happening. After all, spirited primaries are a Morris County GOP tradition.
Having won the special convention for the seat, Dunn will run next year toll the unexpired balance of the term. If she wins next year, she will run for reelection to a full, two-year term in 2021.
Dunn joins the LD25 team of Assemblyman-elect Brian Bergen and Senator Tony Bucco (R-25).
This is a developing story.