State Sen. Anthony Bucco Overtakes Dem Challenger in 25th Legislative Race; Darcy Draeger’s Lead Narrows

With over 95,000 ballots still to be counted in Morris County, Republicans have overtaken one race they were behind in and closed the gap on another in two special election races in New Jersey’s 25th legislative district. 

As of 10:30 a.m. Nov. 10, incumbent State Sen. Anthony M. Bucco (R-25) continued to pass Democratic challenger Rupande Mehta with a 1,713 vote lead in the 25th.

Conversely, in the race for the unexpired Assembly term created by Bucco going to the Senate, Darcy Draeger leads Assemblywoman Aura Dunn (R-25) by 786 votes.

On Nov. 4, Mehta led Bucco by 855 votes for the remainder of late State Sen. Anthony R. Bucco term, while Draeger was up by 2,289 vote over Dunn (R-25). But Bucco has slowly gained ground to surpass Mehta since then while Dunn has chipped away at the Democratic challengers lead.

Blue Morris County

The 25th Legislative District covers two counties: Morris and Somerset. In Morris, Bucco leads the vote count by a 36,856-37,535 margin, while Draeger is winning the county by 1,177 votes. In Somerset, Bucco and Dunn are both winning by a 54%-46% margin. Bernardsville is the only Somerset County municipality in the 25th.

The election comes as Morris County continues to trend as a blue county. Joe Biden is outpolling President Donald Trump by 14 points, while Democrat Cary Amaro is ahead by 5,005 votes in the race for Morris County freeholder against  Republican incumbent Tayfun Selen.

Democrats have not won a countywide election in Morris County since 1973.

Slow Count

Reportedly, the slow count in Morris County is due to the ink being blurred on the envelopes of about one-in-five ballots, preventing scanners from reading bar codes and creating delays in the counting of votes. The blurry ink has forced election workers to manually enter bar code numbers for each voter, into the Statewide Voter Registration System, a problem affecting around 56,000 Morris County ballots that cannot be scanned.

Statewide, complete mail-in ballot results will not be available until after Nov. 10, the deadline for timely postmarked mail-in ballot to be received. Provisional ballots will be counted once all mail-in ballot have been tallied.

Morris has now counted nearly 193,000 ballots out of 288,000 cast, with an unknown amount of provisional ballots received. Official final results may not be available until Nov. 20.

Bucco Experience

Bucco portrayed himself during the campaign as an experienced legislator that has worked both sides of the aisle, first in the Assembly then in the last year in the State Senate. He promoted his work as a bipartisan leader with a record of passing common sense laws as well as the ability to work with Rep. Mickie Sherrill and State Sen. Richard Codey (D-27) to secure COVID-19 relief money from the federal government. 

In his bid to be elected to the seat he was appointed to after the passing of his father, Bucco characterized himself as a needed check on Democrats “as it makes for better government. I have stood up for constituents of the 25th. This is not the time for on the job training.”

Mehta, a resident of Denville, campaigned saying a new leader was needed in the district. Bucco in his ten years in Trenton “has prioritized politics over the residents of the 25th district. I believe I will avoid the bad decisions based on political calculations that lead to slashing women’s healthcare and critical assistance to small businesses.”

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