Democrats have broad spending leads in competitive districts, filings show

Statewide, Democratic candidates have outraised Republicans more than 3-to-1

By: - October 12, 2021 1:41 pm

Statewide, Democratic candidates have outraised Republicans more than 3-to-1. (Getty Images)

A handful of competitive legislative districts have again drawn the majority of candidates’ spending this year, and Democrats have the edge.

Candidates in the 2nd District in Atlantic County, where Democratic Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo and Republican state Sen.-select Vince Polistina are vying for a vacant seat in the upper chamber, have put just over $1.2 million into the contest.

Most of that money, $703,960, came from Mazzeo and his running mates, Assemblyman John Armato and Atlantic County Commissioner Caren Fitzpatrick, according to 29-day pre-election reports made public by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission Tuesday.

The Democrats still had $360,493 left in their coffers on Oct. 1.

Polistina, a former assemblyman, and running mates Claire Swift and Don Guardian had spent a combined $523,835 as of Oct. 1 and had $265,867 left on hand.

Though the candidates have spent heavily, the bulk of the district’s expenditures were made by outside groups. That advantage also fell to the Democrats.

Garden State Forward, a super PAC with ties to the New Jersey Education Association, has put a little more than $1.8 million in television ads, digital spots, and mailers behind the district’s Democrats.

The Republican State Leadership Committee reported a $50,000 expense for media consulting in the district in September, though the reports released Tuesday do not reflect six-figure ad buys it made in the 2nd, 8th and 11th districts last week.

The situation is similar in the 8th district, where state Sen. Dawn Addiego (D-Burlington) is running her first race as a Democrat since swapping parties in January 2019.

Addiego and her running mates, Allison Eckel and Mark Natale, have spent about $1.2 million on the race and had $566,351 banked at the end of the reporting period.

Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield (R-Burlington), the GOP pick for state Senate, and running mates Brandon Umba and Michael Torrissi spent a combined $300,372 through Oct. 1 and had just $77,718 left on hand.

ELEC reported $125,000 in independent spending in the district, but that number is likely greater. American Democratic Majority, a super PAC with ties to South Jersey power broker George Norcross, has been airing television ads and sending mailers to the district’s voters for weeks. The PAC last reported spending in July.

The Republican State Leadership Committee reported another $50,000 media consulting expense in the district.

The gap in spending is broader in Monmouth County’s 11th district, where three Democrats — state Sen. Vin Gopal and Assembly members Joann Downey and Eric Houghtaling — are seeking to hold the once-Republican district. The incumbents put more than $1.45 million into the race, and they had $824,282 to spend before Election Day.

Their GOP opponents — senate candidate Lori Annetta, and Assembly running mates Kim Eulner and Marilyn Piperino — spent just $97,369 in the most recent reporting period and had only $57,801 remaining in their coffers on Oct. 1.

Democrats had a significant spending lead in the 16th district as well. Assemblymen Andrew Zwicker (D-Middlesex) — who is running to fill retiring Republican state Sen. Kip Bateman’s seat in the upper chamber — Assemblyman Roy Freiman (D-Somerset) and former Montgomery Mayor Sadaf Jaffer have spent more than $1.2 million on the race. They have another $350,905 to spend before Election Day, close to twice the $183,378 spent by Republican challengers Vince Panico, Joseph Lukac III, and former Rep. Michael Pappas, who is running for Senate.

The Republicans had just $69,749 left between them on Oct. 1.

Statewide, Democratic candidates have outraised Republicans more than 3-to-1, bringing in about of $24.8 million to the GOP candidate’s $7 million. They have more than four times as much cash on hand than the GOP, $15.7 million to $3.8 million.

The four competitive districts — along with the 3rd, where Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and his running mates account for all of the $1.4 million spent — make up 58% of the general election spending this year.

Democrats control both chambers with a 25-14 majority in the Senate and a 52-28 majority in the Assembly.

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Nikita Biryukov
Nikita Biryukov

Nikita Biryukov most recently covered state government and politics for the New Jersey Globe. His tenure there included revelatory stories on marijuana legalization, voting reform and Rep. Jeff Van Drew's decamp to the Republican Party. Earlier, he worked as a freelancer for The Home News Tribune and The Press of Atlantic City.

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