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New Jersey Statehouse. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe)

Democrats outraising Republicans in most key legislative races

By Joey Fox, October 12 2021 11:53 am

In most highly competitive legislative races across the state, Democratic candidates are outraising their Republican opponents, according to pre-election fundraising reports released today by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC).

Those competitive districts are also drawing the lion’s share of the state’s overall legislative spending. Five districts – the 2nd, 3rd, 8th, 11th, and 16th – hosted 64% of all legislative spending across the state, and a whopping 94% of spending from independent committees.

“So-called battleground, or swing, districts typically become the focal point for most spending during legislative elections,” said ELEC executive director Jeff Brindle in a statement accompanying the release. “Most incumbents face little real risk of losing because redistricting protects their seats. So they can send money to the more competitive districts.”

The 2nd district

The most expensive district in the state by far is the Atlantic County-based 2nd district, where Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-Northfield) and State Sen.-elect Vince Polistina (R-Egg Harbor) are locked in a tight battle for the Senate.

The 2nd district has witnessed a total of $3.1 million in spending so far, with nearly $2 million coming from outside groups. Only around $2.3 million has been spent by independent groups overall, meaning that the 2nd district has accounted for the vast majority of that outside spending.

According to the ELEC reports, the Democratic slate in the district has collectively raised $1,064,453, while Republicans have raised $789,702. Democrats also have a cash-on-hand advantage of $360,493 to $265,867.

But, as is always the case with ELEC’s legislative reports, these numbers can be deceiving. Most legislative candidates have both their own fundraising accounts and joint accounts they share with their running mates; for example, Republican Assembly nominees Don Guardian and Claire Swift both have independent accounts and a third account they share. 

Money can be transferred to and from each separate account, causing ELEC to double-count that money and thus artificially inflate the total amount raised.

Additionally, money that candidates and committees raised in previous election cycles, including this year’s June primary, can be transferred into general election accounts – and those transferred funds count towards their fundraising.

The 8th district

The state’s other toss-up race, between party-switching State Sen. Dawn Addiego (D-Evesham), Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield (R-Southampton), and their respective Assembly slates in the Burlington County-based 8th district, was the second-most expensive at $1.6 million. The large majority of that spending came from the candidates themselves, while outside groups contributed $125,000.

Addiego and her running mates reported raising $1,773,673 and have $566,352 left on-hand; Stanfield and her team raised $378,091 with $77,719 left on-hand.

The same disclaimers apply for double-counting money, but in this case it’s clear Democrats are well in the lead regardless. Addiego’s personal account alone reported raising $650,330 – almost twice as much as all three Republicans raised, combined.

The 11th district

The 11th district in Monmouth County, which is considered a safer bet for its three Democratic incumbents, saw a little over $1.6 million in spending, with $1.5 million coming from the candidates and $75,000 from independent committees.

Even more so than in the 8th district, Democrats are dominating the money game in the 11th district. State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch) and his Assembly counterparts raised a combined $2,281,739, versus only $155,169 for their Republican opponents. Democrats have $824,282 in cash-on-hand; Republicans have $57,801.

The 3rd district

While the third district is officially the state’s fourth most expensive with $1.4 million spent, that label is in some ways inaccurate, since the spending has come almost exclusively from one source: Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford).

Sweeney’s personal account reported raising $1,282,854, and his joint account raised $1,253,954; all told, 3rd district Democrats raised a massive $2,810,066, and have $1,373,862 left on-hand.

During the same period, Republicans in the district raised $100. They haven’t spent it yet.

The 16th district

Rounding out the top five most expensive races is the 16th district in suburban Central Jersey, also with $1.4 million spent; Democrats have accounted for the vast majority of that spending.

The three Democratic candidates and their joint account collectively raised $1,565,130, and have $767,703 left to spend. Republicans, on the other hand, raised a comparatively paltry $253,128, and have only $69,750 left to spend.

Other districts

In the 1st district, which Republicans flipped in 2019, Democrats have all but given up. Their three candidates collectively raised $43,939 while Republicans received $474,260, a 10-to-1 advantage.

Vincent Solomeno, running in the 13th district against State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Little Silver), actually outraised the incumbent $111,261 to $110,674, and his Assembly running mates approximately matched their opponents’ fundraising. But running even with the incumbents probably won’t be enough for Democrats in the historically Republican district.

14th district Senate nominee Adam Elias put in a seemingly decent showing with $138,387 raised to incumbent State Sen Linda Greenstein (D-Plainsboro)’s $278,369 – but $90,000 of Elias’ haul is a loan from himself.

The 21st district, home to extremely competitive races in previous cycles, seems to be fading off of Democrats’ fundraising radars this year. Democrats raised a respectable $339,112, but it pales in comparison to Republicans’ $786,227.

The same story is true in the 25th district, where Democrats got $296,982 – far from nothing – but Republicans still nearly doubled their total with $583,903.

Finally, in the 39th district, Republican incumbents raised $419,006, most of it coming from State Sen. Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale), while Democrats got $208,859.

This story was updated at 3:11 p.m. with a clarification on Adam Elias’s self-funding.

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