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Candidates: Legislative District 25

With almost no funds and only slightly more in the way of name recognition, the Republicans in the 25th are relying on the web.

Democrat George Stafford of Wharton is running for an Assembly seat in the 25th District anyway he can.

He and his running mates, Gayle Heiss Colucci of Mine Hill for the Assembly and Rick Thoeni of Denville for the Senate have almost no cash and little name recognition. And they are opposing three well-known Republican incumbents, Sen. Anthony J. Bucco of Boonton, and Assemblymen Michael Patrick Carroll of Morris Township and Anthony M. Bucco of Boonton Township. The Assemblyman is the Senator's son.

"These are cynical politicians who are using state government as the family business," Stafford said.

With those odds, Stafford said he is running an Internet-based campaign, posting his positions on key issues and trying to rally supporters via the web.

One of his latest missives asked supporters to channel their anger at the current state of affairs in the state -- high unemployment and high taxes -- and vote the incumbents out of office.

They still do some traditional campaigning as well, he said.

The Buccos, who indvidually serve on their body's respective budget committees, have been supportive of Gov. Chris Christie's efforts to streamline govenment, reduce salary and benefits costs and reduce local property taxes.

Carroll, in opposition, 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 eduction aid to poor, mosty urban, school districts.

Assemblyman Bucco, an attorney in his first legislative term, said he felt "honored and somewhat amazed" to find himself in Trenton working on these signficant state issues.

He has tried to work across the aisle with the Democrats, who hold a majority of seats in the Assembly.

Senator Bucco, in office since 1998 after three years in the Assembly, said he supported the 2 percent tax levy cap and contract arbitration refors, and will work to complete passage of the other needed reforms, including rewriting Civil Service rules.

"I was proud to help the governor get his 2012 budget passed with no spending cuts and no new taxes," he said.

Both Buccos said they would support school funding reform that levels out state aid payments for students across the state and helps create charter schools give choices to students in the state's underperforming schools

Carroll, an attorney, has been in the Assembly since 1996. He favors the "smallest, most effective government that can be created."

He supports level school spending and an end to imposing the prevailing wage on government projects -- a shift, he said, that would lower the costs.

Stafford noted his Democratic team has garnered endorsements from unions representing teachers, firefighters and other workers affected by the Christie budgets.

He also raised the issue of dual office holding, pointing out that Carroll and Assemblyman Bucco hold several municipal attorney and planning board attorney positions. The Democrats said legislators should have just one government job. Heiss Colucci did not respond to requests for comment.

The 25th District stretches from Morristown west to Lake Hopatcong along a path that roughly follows Routes 10, 46 and 80.

In the June primary, the GOP had 47,410 registered voters compared to 31,475 Democrats. The number of unaffiliated voters represents the largest group of voter, 55,853.

This spring's legislative redistricting 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 and Chester Township, Mendham, Netcong, and Washington Township in Morris County, and Bernardsville in Somerset County.

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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