GOP mini-convention taps Dunn for Bucco Assembly seat

Aura Dunn celebrates upon learning she has won GOP vote to become an Assemblywoman, Nov. 21, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin


Aura Dunn of Mendham Borough on Thursday easily defeated five other Republicans, including lame duck Morristown Councilwoman Alison Deeb, for the soon-to-be-vacated 25th District Assembly seat of Anthony M. Bucco.

Aura Dunn has been named Assemblywoman in District 25. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Dunn, who served as district director for former Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.), was chosen by GOP committee members during a special convention at the County College of Morris in Randolph.

“We need people in Trenton that can bring experience, the know-how and the maturity to fight back against Gov. Murphy effectively. To fight back against his Socialist-, high-tax, anti-business agenda,” said Dunn, who worked for four members of Congress over 15 years.

She blamed Murphy and his fellow Democrats for “shameful and stunning” damage to New Jersey’s economy.

“Four billion dollars has been added to the spending in two years. Millions to make New Jersey a sanctuary state, to shortchange our veterans and children, grabbing our guns,” Dunn said, telling the packed CCM student center she was best qualified to “fight this insanity.”

Watch Video from the Convention

Bucco officially relinquishes the seat after the Nov. 5, 2019, election results are certified, which could be on Monday, said Peter King, counsel for the Morris County Republican Committee.

State Sen. Anthony M. Bucco applauds the selection of Aura Dunn to succeed him in the Assembly. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Last month, Bucco was appointed to the state Senate seat of his father, Tony Bucco, who died in September.  The son was re-elected to the Assembly this month because, he said, it was too late to remove his name from the ballot.

Thursday was a rematch of sorts. Dunn and John Barbarula both ran and lost in the June primary for Assembly.

Barbarula, a Randolph resident and longtime Morris County special counsel, finished a distant second in the mini-convention, with 24 votes to Dunn’s 136.

John Barbarula addresses GOP special convention, Nov. 21, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“I love our country. I am proud of the president. I am a conservative. I’m white. I’m old.  And I’m male. And even though this world is crazy, I’m not changing any of that,” Barbarula thundered.

“I don’t want to go down to Trenton and sing kumbaya and have civility. We are a minority. We must go down there and fight, and go and hit and hit and hit and hit and hit again (at) what are our principles.

“Our principles are God and country,” Barbarula declared.

Mendham Township Deputy Mayor Sarah Neibart, a graduate of Morristown High School, finished third in the GOP vote for Assembly. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Mendham Township Deputy Mayor Sarah Neibart, who at 26 was the youngest candidate at the podium, finished third with 13 votes.

Fourth place went to Alison Deeb, who blamed the “Democratic machine” for denying her a fourth council term in Morristown’s Fourth Ward earlier this month.

“For many years I was the lone Republican. I was just a thorn in their side at every meeting,” Deeb said during her pitch.

“We need battle-tested people in Trenton. More than any candidate in this room, I have put in my dues and been in a knock-down dogfight battle as a 12-year incumbent of the Morristown council, a town that is the apple of the Democrat eye in New Jersey.”

Morristown Councilwoman Alison Deeb makes her Assembly pitch. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Asserting that Gov. Murphy “is determined to turn us into California, (with) sanctuary statehood,” Deeb assailed him for “not cooperating with immigration officers, aided by an out-of-control state attorney general, offering free college to illegals.

“I worked and paid my way through college and grad school as an R.A (resident assistant).”

Deeb went on to accuse the governor of attacking the Second Amendment, “fiscal lunacy,” and “left-wing indoctrination in our schools right down to elementary levels.”

She got five votes.

Al Ribeiro of Bernardsville campaigns for Assembly. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Al Ribeiro, who works in the biopharma industry and lives in Bernardsville in Somerset County, garnered four votes.  Robert Olejar, an attorney from Randolph, rounded out the field with zero votes.

The party faithful will have another chance to vote for Dunn on Jan. 15, 2019, when Morris County Republicans stage a mini-convention to replace Freeholder Heather Darling, who was elected this month as county Surrogate.

If Dunn passes muster a second time, as anticipated, she then would have to run in the June Republican primary to secure a ballot spot in the November general election, King said.


Attorney Robert Olejar of Randolph said local voters don’t care about political affiliations–they just want officials who get things done. He got zero votes at the Morris GOP Assembly convention. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Republican committee members from towns in the 25th District listen to Sarah Neibart’s Assembly pitch. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Alice Cutler of Morristown prepares to vote at GOP special Assembly election. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

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