MENDHAM TWP. – Energized by winning two congressional seats covering Morris County just three weeks ago, Democrats are quickly looking ahead to the next election.
Lisa Bhimani and Darcy Draeger on Monday officially launched their campaign for two state Assembly seats in the 25th District before more than 100 people in the Brookside Community House.
The featured attraction was Congresswoman-elect Mikie Sherrill who said the momentum that propelled Democrats to victories on Nov. 6 is not going anywhere.
“Now, we’re running hard (for) 2019,” she said.
Neither Bhimani of Mendham Township, nor Draeger of Chester Township, espoused any detailed positions on state issues, speaking in general terms about the need to listen to voters and represent the values of the 25th District, which includes central and western Morris County plus Bernardsville in Somerset County.
Bhimani spoke of improving the state’s infrastructure and of reducing property taxes.
No one will quibble with cutting property taxes. Politicians, in fact, have been talking about that for years.
Asked if she has a magic solution, Bhimani, who is a medical doctor, spoke of a need to share services and suggested it’s something the Legislature may have to mandate.
Governors of both parties long have talked about the same thing for years, only to be stymied by “home rule,” a New Jersey tradition that among other things, produces a state with more than 500 municipalities and school districts.
Cracking home rule is not easy. In Bhimani’s home region, a sensible plan a number of years ago to merge police departments in Mendham Borough and Mendham Township was defeated.
So how do you change that? There’s time for that discussion. After all, the election is more than 11 months away.
So, part of the day was looking back and celebrating the party’s recent success.
Sherrill said many of the people in the room were part of her campaign, noting that, “Now, we have … Morris County represented by Democrats.”
Actually that won’t happen until January when Sherrill (District 11) and fellow Democrat Tom Malinowski (District 7) take office.
Bhimani ran for the state Senate in 2017, losing to incumbent Republican Anthony R. Bucco by only 2,500 votes in what was considered a surprisingly good showing.
Draeger, whose professional background is in finance, referred to that campaign and said, “I can’t wait to see what we can do together in 2019.”
Republicans apparently can’t wait for the campaign to start either.
Incumbent Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco, the senator’s son, fired off a release saying that Bhimani and Draeger “would be two more reliable votes in Trenton for the same failed liberal policies that have brought us to the dire fiscal crisis we find our state in today.”
It’s early – very early – but Bucco, one presumes, is well aware that simply calling your opponents “liberals” may no longer be good enough to gain support from a changing Morris County electorate. As proof, consider that Jay Webber used precisely that strategy in his congressional campaign against Sherrill. – unsuccessfully.
Republicans are in a bit of a flux. Bucco will run again, but the district’s other assemblyman, Michael Patrick Carroll, is not seeking reelection, So, we’re going to have a primary to fill out the GOP ticket.
The Democrats’ press conference also got the attention of Doug Steinhardt, the state’s GOP chair.
He criticized Sherrill for breaking a promise to stop partisan politics.
“The ink isn’t dry on her election victory and she is already targeting a local Republican legislator she should be looking to work with to get the job done for her constituents,” Steinhardt said in a statement.
Did Steinhardt expect Sherrill to endorse a Republican?