Home>Campaigns>8th district race ranks as the 3rd costliest legislative contest in N.J. history

Democratic State Sen. Dawn Addiego, left, with Republican Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield. (Photo: Facebook.)

8th district race ranks as the 3rd costliest legislative contest in N.J. history

By David Wildstein, November 29 2021 12:17 pm

The contest in the 8th legislative district was third most-expensive in state history, with $8,543,170 spent this year, according to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.

Candidates spent $7,736,931 in the Atlantic County-based 2nd district, where Republicans held on to an open Senate seat and flipped two seats in the State Assembly.

Those numbers reflect combined spending for the Senate and Assembly races.

In the Burlington-based district, the GOP won back a seat it had never lost, with Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield (R-Westampton) defeating incumbent Dawn Addiego (D-Evesham).  Addiego had won the seat here times as a Republican but switched parties in early 2019.   Republicans also held on to two open Assembly seats.

Democrats spent nearly $3.3 million in the 8th, which additional $4.3 million coming from independent expenditures on behalf of Addiego and her running mates.  Republicans spent just $921,390, including $151,254 from the state GOP.

In the 2nd, Democrats spent more than $2.1 million, plus an additional $4.1 million from independent groups on behalf of Vince Mazzeo and his late.  The GOP candidates — State Sen. Vince Polistina (R-Egg Harbor Township), Assemblyman-elect Don Guardian (R-Atlantic City) and Assemblywoman-elect Claire Swift (R-Margate) – spent $1.2 million with a another $240,459 coming from independent groups.

Spending in the Polistina vs. Mazzeo race was the fifth most-costly in state history.

The 2017 race in the 3rd district between Senate President Steve Sweeney and Republican Fran Grenier is the costliest legislative campaign in New Jersey history.  Adjusted to inflation, the ELEC says the $24.1 million represents almost $25.6 million today and says it’s believed to be the most expensive legislative race in any state.

The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) spent over $5 million in a bid to oust Sweeney.  This year, with the teacher’s union backing him, Sweeney lost to a shoestring budget campaign run by Republican Edward Durr.

Seven of the ten most expensive campaigns were in South Jersey districts.

Ranking second on the all-time spending list is a 2003 race in the 4th district, where Democrat Fred Madden, a former acting New Jersey State Police Superintendent, defeated Republican State Sen. George Geist by just 63 votes out of nearly 42,000 cast.  That race cost $6.1 million at the time – inflation adjustments bring the tally to almost $9.2 million – with Madden significantly outspending Geist.  It was the most expensive legislative contests in state history until the Sweeney vs. Grenier campaign four years ago.

In 2007, candidates for a Monmouth-based Senate seat spent $4,963,939 – about $7.9 million in today’s dollars.  In that race, Republican Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck (R-Red Bank) unseated Democratic State Sen. Ellen Karcher (D-Marlboro).  That ranked 5th in all-time spending.

The sixth most-costly race was in the 2011 State Senate contest in the 2nd between Polistina and incumbent State Sen. James Whelan (D-Atlantic City).  The two candidate spent a combined $5.8 million, or $7 million in when converted to 2021 dollars.

After Sweeney narrowly defeated State Sen. Raymond Zane (R-Woodbury) in 2001 – Zane had spent 28 years in the Senate but switched parties after Democrats indicated they would back Sweeney, a Gloucester County Freeholder – Sweeney raised most of the $4.5 million spent in 2003 – 8th on the all-time spending list.  Zane had been seeking a rematch but dropped out after the primary election.

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