Understanding Bucco

Back when the late Anthony R. Bucco ran for the state Assembly decades ago, he would tell voters, “When I’m in Trenton, you’re in Trenton.”

It sounded pretty corny, but there was nothing corny about the results. Bucco won that primary in 1995 – against a Morris County Freeholder named Chris Christie no less – and eventually moved to the Senate, where he remained until his death a bit more than three years ago.

His son, Anthony M. Bucco, replaced him.

And now the younger Bucco may be on his way to becoming Senate GOP leader, which would arguably make him the top Republican in New Jersey.

That’s a status his father never achieved.

There is a connection between the current senator and his father’s campaign theme almost 30 years ago.

Like his father, the younger Bucco is no rigid ideologue.

Constituent service is important for him, as is just showing up. Don’t underestimate that. Those who attend political events – the rank and file if you will – enjoy seeing party leaders.

This is great for the elected officials as well, given the fact they are always introduced and get a chance to wave to the crowd.

Much like his father, the current Sen. Bucco shows up at many, many events.

This pays dividends.

That was certainly evident last week during a Bucco steak and lobster fundraiser in Mount Arlington. The crowd of about 450 was massive for such an event.

What was interesting was that some of those attending were not usual supporters of Republicans. Unions, who generally lean Democratic, were on hand too.

A cynic would note that unions like to back those who win, but even allowing for that, the turnout showed Bucco’s widespread support.

And also his political moderation at a time when such views are in short supply. This can sometimes put Bucco in uncomfortable spots.

Along those lines, a few months ago, Bucco was on the panel during a discussion on the state of public education sponsored by the Morris County Women’s Republican organization in Mendham Township.

What gets taught in school is a big issue for conservatives these days, so it may not have been surprising that one of the panelists condemned the state teachers’ union as a Marxist organization.

Bucco, who has been endorsed by the NJEA, pointed out that the union is doing what unions are supposed to do – support the interests of its members.
The looming ascension of Bucco to senate Republican leader comes about because of the imminent retirement of the current leader, Steve Oroho.

When Oroho made his intentions known on Monday,  it looked as if the contest for a new leader would come down to Bucco or Mike Testa of Cumberland County.

Soon thereafter, however, Testa said he wants to concentrate on his home county. That appears to clear the field for Bucco.

One says “appears” because a caucus vote is nine months away and before we get there,  Bucco needs to win reelection this fall.

Bucco, who didn’t want to comment on the speculation, remains in LD-25 after redistricting, but the territory has moved a bit east and north. Goodbye Roxbury and Chester; hello West Milford and Jefferson.

Democrats already have a candidate. That’s Christine Clarke, who previously ran in LD-26 when her hometown of Jefferson was in that district.

As news about Bucco’s promotion spread this week, Darcy Draeger, a past Democratic candidate in LD 25, gave a hint of the campaign to come.

In a tweet,  she said that Bucco “isn’t a moderate seeking ‘bipartisan’ solutions, regardless of what he puts on his mailers,” but a man in the style of Tom Kean Jr. who originally got into office because of his father’s influence.

Registration wise, the district is not overly Republican. The GOP’s margin is only 2,700 votes, although history tells us Bucco does well with unaffiliated voters..

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