How the mild mannered, friendly and soft-spoken son of a Morris County political powerhouse became the focus of an acrimonious senate campaign battle may have something to do with the fact that a number of other people were pawing at the turf, growing old and awaiting their turn to finally serve in the Assembly when state Sen. Tony Bucco declared his support elsewhere.
Tony Bucco, Jr. would have the elder statesman’s backing in a bid for the state Assembly, sending that GOP bench of faithful sergeants at arms to return to their mirrors and bitterly regard every ambitious but politically stymied official’s shared horror: creeping gray sideburns and spreading crow’s feet.
Nothing against Bucco, Jr., or so ran the reasoning, but, well, it was Freeholder Doug Cabana’s turn, after all. “Dougy,” as he is affectionately known by his collegaues had been there longer than “Cheggy,” and so Cabana went for it in 2009 against Bucco, Jr., carrying the quiet, infuriated hopes of a chafing alliance and losing a Republican Primary campaign that before it was all over found the elder Bucco in the hospital after experiencing chest pains.
Now, two years later, 2011 is the first time Bucco pater and Bucco pere are on a ticket together, and the LD 25 senate challenger, Morris County Freeholder Director Bill Chegwidden, is making sure to remind people that that’s the case, persistently needling junor as the least imposing target on the opposing side of incumbents.
In addition to his assemblyman’s job, Bucco, Jr. serves as the municipal attorney for Netcong and Roxbury, giving an opening to Chegwidden.
“Assemblyman Bucco’s firm, Murphy, Hubner, McKeon, Wubbenhorst, Bucco and Appelt, received $302,400 from Roxbury in 2009; they received $270,457 in 2010 and in 2011, to date, they have received at least $60,000. The Assemblyman’s firm received $53,875 from Netcong in 2009, $59,375 in 2010 $16,000 to date in 2011.”
As they try to dent him up and guard against any further ascent he may make on the legislative ladder and he attempts to fend off his own challenge from a PBA delegate, the younger Bucco said he knows he’s the issue this time in the senate race.
“It’s very misleading,” he said of the campaign mobilized against him. “And second of all, that’s what he has to do to distract people from his own record. This is the mayor of Wharton, a freeholder and a teacher in the Morris Knolls school district. He’s in two separate pensions. He promised the public when he ran for freeholder that he would give up his municipal seat and he never did. I’ll tell you why he didn’t. It’s $6000 more into the pension system to contribute to his highest three years. If it was today, he wouldn’t be able to do that anymore.”
Bucco said he had the contracts with Netcong and Roxbury before going to the law firm that currently employs him – and where he gets paid directly by the law firm.
“None of this stuff just happened,” he said. “This was profession the I was going to pursue when I graduated from law school in 1987.”
Alan Zakin, a spokesman for the Chegwiden campaign, said he has documentation proving that from 1998 until 2008, Bucco, Jr. received his checks directly from Netcong.
A thyroid cancer survivor first diagnosed at age eight, who fought off a 2006 recurrence and is today cancer free, Bucco said of the prospect of someday taking his father’s senate seat, “Anyone who thinks they can plan their steps in politics is very naive.”