Merkt retirement could mean Freeholder primaries in Morris

Rick Merkt's announcement that he won't seek re-election to a seventh term in the State Assembly next year – possibly to run for Governor – will create a chain reaction that will reach the local level. Four Freeholders are considered potential candidates for the solidly Republican District 25 seat, and three of them – John Murphy, Gene Feyl, Bill Chegwidden – would have to give up their Freeholder seats to run for the Legislature in 2009. That would create another hotly contested primary for open Freeholder seats. If Doug Cabana were to win the Assembly seat, Morris County Republicans would need to hold a January 2010 special election convention to replace him.

The real prize comes in two years, when some Republicans say that four-term State Sen. Anthony Bucco, who will be 71-years-old, will retire. Merkt and his running mate, Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, have had their eye on the Senate seat, as has Murphy and Anthony Bucco, Jr., an attorney and the Senator's son. Murphy ran a strong race for Governor in 2005, but is not expected to run again because of the crowded field from within Morris County (U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie and now Merkt, both Mendham residents.) If he wants to move up to the Senate in 2011, he may need to spend two years in the Assembly – if for no other reason than stop a new Assemblyman from being in a position to move up.

Merkt retirement could mean Freeholder primaries in Morris