Click play for audio version of this story
Assembly candidates in the 8th legislative district are dueling over guns and dark money.
Earlier this week, the campaign of Assemblyman Ryan Peters (R-Hainesport) and former Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield called on their Democratic opponents, former Assembly Staffer Gina LaPlaca and Evesham attorney Mark Natale, to condemn the General Majority PAC over a mailer it launched in the first legislative district.
That mailer, the Republicans said, darkened the face of GOP Assembly candidate Antwan McClellan, who is black, and superimposed the image on a yellow circle. The Peters-Stanfield campaign, calling the mailer a racist attack, claimed it was an attempt to mimic the iconography Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben products.
The PAC launched a separate mailer in the eighth that attacked Peters’ and Stanfield’s record on guns.
The Democratic candidates called the former attack a distraction from the latter.
“Peters and Stanfield are desperately trying to escape their dangerous record on gun violence reform. Jean Stanfield has a 93% rating with the NRA for a reason,” LaPlaca-Natale spokesman Mickey Quinn said. “Gina and Mark are once again calling on her to release her NRA candidate questionnaire responses, because the people of the 8th Legislative District deserve to know how she earned her blood money endorsement.”
The Republicans said the Democrats were dancing around the support General Majority has lent them.
“Until corporate lobbyist Gina LaPlaca and opportunistic lawyer Mark Natale find the moral courage to denounce the ugly racist smears against African-Americans by the shady Camden Super PAC running their campaign, they don’t have the moral standing to demand anything of anybody,” Peters-Stanfield campaign manager Angelo Lamberto said. “Least of all question the commitment to combating violence of a six-term County Sheriff who took illegal guns off the street and a Navy SEAL Commander who put his life on the line to free women and children from oppression and violence.”
General Majority is run by allies of George Norcross, the South Jersey powerbroker and is the force behind Democrats’ push to win over Republican-held districts in the state’s southern half.
The group has significant financial heft to throw into legislative races. In 2017, the PAC poured more than $2 million into Sweeney’s re-election race, with much of the money coming from Norcross or those with close ties to him.
Its attacks over the Republicans’ record on guns hit Peters on no votes the assemblyman cast on bills lowering the maximum legal magazine capacity in the state from 15 to 10 and adding crimes like carjacking to the list of violations that would bar one from legally purchasing a firearm.
“Ryan Peters is no better. He is an extremist who has refused to support even simple reform measures, like banning high capacity magazines similar to those used in several recent massacres,” Quinn said. “We’ve seen more mass shootings than actual days in this year and Peters is concerned with a political mailing in Cape May County? Like the poor man’s Donald Trump that he is, Ryan hopes that he can distract voters from his awful record.”
Both of the bills passed in votes that largely fell along party lines, and a number of Democrats in vulnerable districts voted no on the high-capacity magazine bill.
Though, Peters has previously voted to expand background checks for gun purchases and allow law enforcement to seize firearms in certain cases.
“Both Jean Stanfield and Ryan Peters are more credible on gun safety than a Trenton lobbyist and Corporate lawyer,” Lamberto said. “As Sheriff, Stanfield organized a massive gun buyback that NRA proponents opposed while Assemblyman Peters supports universal background checks and has a moderate record on guns.”
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the General Majority PAC does not disclose their donors.