Political Implications in the Aftermath of Senator Bucco’s Death

From left: Thompson, Bucco, Cryan, Rice and Greenstein.

For good – or for bad – politics never stops. No matter what happens, the system moves on – even when there is a death.

So it is that Morris County Republicans now have a dilemma of sorts regarding how to replace the just-deceased Anthony R. Bucco in the state Senate.

Legislative vacancies are filled through a convention of relevant county committee members. In this case, we’re dealing with District 25 covering central and western Morris County and one town, Bernardsville, in Somerset. The convention must be held within 35 days. And that’s the problem.

The timetable means the convention to replace Bucco would take place prior to the November election.

Is that troublesome?

Yes, because Anthony M. Bucco, the senator’s son, is presumed to be interested in moving up to the Senate. In fact, in the chummy world of party politics, he’d likely be the leading candidate.

But the younger Bucco is running this year for reelection to the state Assembly? That means if he is picked for the Senate prior to the November election, he’d have to give up his Assembly candidacy.

Would Republicans replace him on the ballot?

Technically, they would not be allowed to, but as we saw more than a decade ago when Frank Lautenberg replaced Robert Torricelli on the ballot at the last minute, just about anything goes these days. Still, any new candidate would have little time to mount a campaign. So the need to rely strictly on party support would be paramount. And let’s not forget that the GOP would need to select a candidate.

Another possibility – at least in theory – would be for the GOP committee to delay the convention until after the election. They would have to go to court to do that.

That would allow Bucco to run for the Assembly and then – presumably – seek the Senate seat after the November election.

Keep in mind he’d be able to seek the Senate seat whether he wins or loses the November election for Assembly.

One problem with that scenario is that the courts would have to sanction it. Another problem would be the obvious perception that Bucco would be running for the Assembly when he really would be looking to go to the Senate.

As of Tuesday, the apparent thinking in county GOP circles was to make no plans until after the senator’s funeral.

In the meantime, Democratic Assembly candidates Lisa Bhimani and Darcy Draeger are putting their campaign on hold.

“There is a  time for politics and that time is not now,” Draeger said, referring to the senator’s passing.

It’s unclear how long the “on hold” will last.

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