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Former Gov. Chris Christie. Photo by Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe.

Group with ties to Christie attack Independent Conservatives in 21st district

Marks, Pappas could be spoilers in Bramnick, Munoz re-election bid

By David Wildstein, October 25 2019 5:34 pm

An independent expenditure group with ties to former Gov. Chris Christie is in 21st district mailboxes with an attack on two Independent Conservative Assembly candidates who could wind up as spoilers in the re-election campaign of Republicans Jon Bramnick and Nancy Munoz.

The mailer, which depicts Martin Marks and Harry P. Pappas as sheep, says that the two “aren’t conservatives.”

Just The Facts New Jersey is run by Peter Sheridan, a longtime aide to Christie, and is chaired by John Lutz, who was Christie’s appointee to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

In 2018, Sheridan headed Integrity NJ, a super PAC that spent $7.5 million attacking Democrat Bob Menendez in his U.S. Senate re-election campaign.

According to reports filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, Just The Facts New Jersey raised $67,500, nearly three-quarters of it from the Operating Engineers Local 825.

Also on the donor list is David O’Connor, a private investor from Westfield who contributed $10,000.

The group reported spending $39,067 so far — $12,500 to Sheridan’s firm, Red Maverick Media –and has not filed any supplemental 48-hour notices.  The rest of the money has been spent on fundraising and compliance, a fairly large number considering the group raised just $7,500 beyond the Operating Engineers and O’Connor.

It’s possible that Marks, a former Republican Mayor of Scotch Plains, and Pappas, who served as the Union County Democratic Chairman in the 1970s and as a Republican Township Committeeman in Springfield in the 1990s, could siphon off enough votes to cause Bramnick and Munoz to lose.

Marks and Pappas have run as openly pro-Donald Trump supporters, while Bramnick has been critical of the president.

The Democratic candidates are Lisa Mandelblatt and Stacey Gunderman.

Lutz, a high school classmate of former U.S. Senator Jeff Chiesa, served as chief counsel to Chiesa during his brief tenure in the United States Senate six years ago.

In 2015, he co-hosted a breakfast for bundlers raising money for Leadership Matters for America, a political action committee that supported Christie’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

Lutz was among a group of four Republican Christie appointees to the EDA that Gov. Phil Murphy sought to oust in April amidst controversies involving more than $11 billion in tax credits awarded by the embattled agency.  He refused to resign.

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