Bucco Jr. criticized for staying in Assembly race despite replacing dad in state Senate

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A Republican state assemblyman has now been sworn in to the state Senate to replace his late father.

Anthony Bucco Jr. took the oath in Trenton Thursday to fill his father’s Senate seat, after Anthony Bucco Sr. died last month. But some Democratic politicians are criticizing Bucco for remaining on the ballot for the Assembly election this November.

"Anyone that knew my dad knew that he loved being a senator. And I recognize that I have big shoes to fill,” Bucco said during his swearing-in ceremony.

To take the oath as a senator, Bucco had to resign his seat in the state Assembly. But he's still running for re-election to the same Assembly seat he just quit.

"This process is what it is. And it applies to both Democrats and Republicans,” says Bucco.

Political experts say that there is a very simple reason for Bucco to remain on the ballot for the Assembly, despite being sworn to the Senate.

RELATED: Republican state Sen. Tony Bucco suffers fatal heart attack 

“Why? So, the party has the opportunity to fill that vacancy after the election,” says Micah Rasmussen of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics.

Rasmussen says that Bucco may not want to abandon his lesser-known Assembly running mate Brian Bergen with just a few days to go in the race.

"It's a very unusual situation when you're asking voters to vote for somebody that you know is not going to ever take that seat,” he says.

Bucco was facing a tough re-election battle against Democratic candidates Darcy Draeger and Lisa Bhimani. They released a statement bashing Bucco, saying that public officials are elected by the people, not appointed by party insiders behind closed doors.

"This is a position I didn't choose, believe me,” Bucco says.

Leaders of both parties did not criticize Bucco's choice.

“I think he’s a wonderful member of the General Assembly and now he's going to be an important member of the state Senate,” says Republican Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr.

“His father was a wonderful person that we all loved and really respected, his son made the decision. He made the decision that was his to make. Doesn't matter whether it’s Democrat or Republican, to be honest with you,” says Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney.

If Bucco wins the Assembly race, the county Republican committee will choose a replacement. That person will serve in the Assembly until a special election in November 2020.

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