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Legislative District 25

Politics in the 25th Legislative District is typically a family affair. Just as often, it’s a Republican one.

Over the last 15 years, a Bucco has often faced a MacInnes. Last year, a Bucco faced his own brother-in-law. But 2009 is the first time two Buccos are running together in this reliably Republican district carved out of central Morris County: Sen. Anthony J. Bucco of Boonton, and Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco of Boonton Township, both Republican incumbents and the only father-son team serving in the legislature.

Their running mate is Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, a Morris Township attorney who has been in office since 1996.

Instead of a MacInnes, however, their opponents this year includes are a trio of Democrats who lack elected experience, although some have sought state or county office before.

For the Senate, the Democrats are offering Rick Thoeni of Denville, a retired information technology business owner, who lost in a 2009 run for a Denville Township Council seat. For the Assembly, the Democrats nominated George Stafford of Wharton, a former manager of the Motor Vehicles Commission office in Morristown, and Gayle Heiss Colucci, an active member of the Mine Hill Historical Society.

Stafford, conceding that the Democrats lack the name recognition or fund-raising prowess of their opponents, said they are planning an Internet-based attack supported by appearances at candidates' events and door-to-door campaigning.

But he pointed out that his Democratic team has garnered endorsements from unions representing teachers, firefighters, and other workers affected by the budget decisions of Gov. Chris Christie. He has had a public dispute with fellow Democrat Sheila Oliver, the Assembly Speaker and de facto legislative leader of her party in that chamber, over her deal-making with Christie that cut state worker pay and pensions.

Stafford said they also will raise the issue of dual office holding, noting that Carroll and Assemblyman Bucco hold several municipal attorney and planning board attorney positions. This has been a consistent Democratic talking point in state elections.

The Buccos, who individually serve on their bodies’ respective budget committees, have been supportive of Christie’s efforts to streamline government, reduce salary and benefits costs, and cut local property taxes.

Carroll, considered among the most conservative members of the legislature, wanted to see more aid in the state budget directed to suburban schools. He has been a key critic of the long-standing Abbott rulings that direct state education aid to poorer, mostly urban school districts.

The 25th District has been solidly Republican since the post-Watergate years, with one notable exception: Gordon MacInness, who won the Senate seat in 1993 over incumbent John Dorsey. (Dorsey was unpopular for, among other reasons, using senatorial courtesy to stop the reappointment of a superior court judge.)

MacInness, who lost his bid for re-election in 1997 to Anthony J. Bucco, remains the only Democrat in the last 35 years to have held any seat representing Morris County. Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats in the 25th, as in the rest of Morris County. In the June primary, the GOP had 47,410 registered voters, compared to 31,475 registered Democrats. The unaffiliated represented the largest group – 55,853 in the primary, but in the 25th, they tend to vote Republican.

The redistricting of legislative lines last spring did little to change that ratio. While Jefferson and Rockaway Township were moved to the 26th District, the 25th District was shifted south and west, adding GOP strongholds Chester, Chester Township, Mendham, and Washington Township in Morris County; and Bernardsville in Somerset County.

Other than tiny Netcong, a small urbanized town on Lake Musconetcong, the additions to the 25th District are representative of the more rural and wealthy parts of North and Central Jersey, with higher incomes and property values than in the rest of the state.

Michael Daigle is a freelance writer and journalist from Phillipsburg. He has worked for newspapers in Massachusetts, Maine, and for the past 20 years, in New Jersey. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting on housing policy, politics, environmental issues and as a columnist.

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