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

Retiring legislators have more than $400k sitting in their campaign accounts

Rooney, Sacco in particular have lots of cash that could go towards other races

By Joey Fox, January 27 2023 3:26 pm

Six New Jersey state legislators who have announced their intentions to retire from the legislature this year collectively have more than $400,000 saved up in their legislative campaign accounts – money that could be redirected towards other campaigns, if the outgoing legislators are so inclined.

At the top of the list is Assemblyman Kevin Rooney (R-Wyckoff), who is departing his 40th district seat in favor of Essex GOP Chairman Al Barlas. After six years in the Assembly, Rooney has a hefty $170,542 warchest saved up as of the end of 2022.

That money could go towards helping other Republicans win races across the state this year; Rooney is close with Assembly Minority Leader John DiMaio (R-Hackettstown), who is helping lead the efforts to gain more seats in the legislature. Given that legislative Democrats frequently run financial circles around their Republican opponents, Rooney’s stockpile would go a long way to even the playing field.

Close behind Rooney with $159,731 is State Sen. Nicholas Sacco (D-North Bergen), who was redrawn into the same district as State Sen. Brian Stack (D-Union City). Sacco is running for re-election in May as mayor of North Bergen; he reported just $10,102 on-hand for that campaign, but presumably some of his legislative cash will be funneled towards the North Bergen race instead.

Sacco isn’t the only outgoing Hudson legislator running for another office this year. Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez (D-West New York), upon losing Hudson Democratic support for the Assembly, is running for West New York Commissioner on Commissioner Cosmo Cirillo’s slate, and her $18,759 legislative warchest could come in handy.

Other retiring incumbents with legislative cash left over are State Sen. Jean Stanfield (R-Westampton) with $20,653; Assemblywoman Sadaf Jaffer (D-Montgomery) with $16,825; and Assemblyman Pedro Mejia (D-Secaucus) with $16,044. Jaffer and Mejia could both pursue another campaign sometime in the future, so they may prefer to keep their money around just in case.

Jaffer and State Sen. Christopher Connors (R-Lacey) also have some cash saved in joint district accounts, though presumably that will just be used by their running mates who are seeking re-election.

Four other legislators – Assemblymembers Dan Benson (D-Hamilton), Annette Chaparro (D-Hoboken), Parker Space (R-Wantage), and Hal Wirths (R-Wantage) – don’t have legislative campaign accounts for 2023 set up at all; Benson is running for Mercer County Executive and has $148,147 in that account instead.

And there are still more legislative retirements likely to come. State Sen. Sandra Cunningham (D-Jersey City), for example, isn’t expected to run for re-election due to cognitive health issues, meaning that her $120,201 (as of September 2022; she hasn’t filed a fourth quarter report yet) could soon be up for grabs.

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