State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) and his 3rd legislative district Assembly counterparts have begun airing two fiercely critical new advertisements against their Republican opponents, Senate nominee Ed Durr and Assembly nominees Beth Sawyer and Bethanne McCarthy-Patrick.
The ads, the first of the campaign season in a district neither party regards as highly competitive, collectively cost $61,142 and are set to run for two weeks.
“Beth Sawyer and Bethanne Patrick are what’s wrong with politics,” one ad’s narrator says. “Bethanne raised our property taxes costing us a fortune. Beth Sawyer is a deadbeat caught not paying her taxes. Sued repeatedly for refusing to pay what she owed. Beth and Bethanne got government jobs, then didn’t bother showing up in more than 25% of their meetings. Higher taxes, reckless spending: we just can’t afford Beth Sawyer and Bethanne Patrick.”
As of publication time, the Globe has not yet obtained a copy of the second ad, which focuses on Durr.
The Republican Party of Gloucester County, one of three counties included in the district, filed a cease and desist letter on Wednesday demanding that networks stop airing the ad due to its misrepresentation of Sawyer’s history in particular.
“The advertisement’s claims are provably false,” wrote Russell DePersia, counsel for the Gloucester County GOP. “Ms. Sawyer has never had a government paying job, as your ad claims.”
“The reference to unpaid medical bills is also false and misleading,” DePersia continued. “The medical bill in question was the responsibility of her ex-husband pursuant to their divorce decree, even though Ms. Sawyer paid the bill in full in 1997. As to the claim of unpaid property taxes, Ms. Sawyer was no longer the owner of that property when the tax bill accrued. Again, these are all completely false allegations.”
Sawyer, McCarthy-Patrick, and Durr also took strong exception to the ads, calling their allegations “outright lies” and objecting to the dredging of their pasts.
“Their ad claims I had a no-show government job,” McCarthy-Patrick said in a statement. “I was shocked to learn my 21 years as a union firefighter/EMT counts as a no-show job! While my co-workers and I were saving lives and property these guys were casting votes to raise our taxes. Apparently, lying is the best way for them to attack a first responder.”
Sawyer similarly criticized the ads for their tone and content, demanding that Democrats pull the “deceptive” spots.
“While we all understand politics can be rough, lying is completely unacceptable,” she said. “The voters of our district deserve better than a bunch of lies.”
The 3rd legislative district, which covers the state’s southwestern corner in Camden, Gloucester, and Salem Counties, has been held by Democrats for nearly two decades. Its current incumbents – Sweeney, Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Paulsboro), and Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro (D-Woolwich) – are not considered to be under significant threat this year from the Republican slate.
Sweeney is no stranger to hard-fought and competitive races in the Trump-won district. After winning relatively close re-election races in 2011 and 2013, Sweeney was the target of an unusual alliance between Republicans and the New Jersey Education Alliance in 2017, ultimately winning 59-41% in what was the most expensive state legislative race in United States history.
But the existence of the two ads, as well as their strikingly negative tone, signals that Sweeney, Burzichelli, and Taliaferro aren’t taking their re-elections for granted this year, and are willing to slam even unheralded Republican candidates in their quest for another term.