One of the perks of being the new GOP State Chairman: Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris Plains) gets to appoint the five Republican members of the Legislative Redistricting Commission, which will redraw districts for the 2011 elections. That could help Webber move up to the State Senate.
The conventional wisdom is that State Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-Boonton) will retire in 2011 and that three Republicans – Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R-Morris Twp.), Morris County Freeholder John Murphy, and soon-to-be Assemblyman Anthony Bucco, Jr., the son of the Senator – will compete for his seat.
But with just some minor tinkering of the two Morris County-based legislative districts, Webber could find himself without substantial opposition for the Senate seat. Morris Plains and Parsippany could move from the 26th to the 25th, and Morris Township, Morristown, Boonton Township and Boonton Borough could shift from the 25th to the 26th – a nearly even exchange of population, based on 2006 census estimates.
That would mean a 26th district ticket of State Sen. Joseph Pennacchio (R-Montville), Carroll and Bucco, Jr. In the 25th, it would be Webber for Senate, running with Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce (R-Parsippany) and an open seat. Murphy, who sought the 2005 Republican gubernatorial nomination, lives in Morris Township. Shifting his hometown to District 26 could easily block his legislative ambitions.
Webber ran for the Senate in 2003, unsuccessfully challenging incumbent Robert "Mr. Potato Head" Martin in the GOP primary. His path to the Senate in his current district is blocked by Pennacchio, who moved to the upper house after Martin retired in 2007. There is no sign of Pennacchio retiring any time soon.