Outside spending makes 2nd, 8th district races among most expensive in state history

By: - October 28, 2021 12:22 pm

State Sen. Dawn Addiego, left, is facing Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield in the 8th District. (Photos courtesy of Adding and Stanfield)

Outside groups have continued pouring money into two of the state’s most competitive legislative races, bringing the total invested in South Jersey’s 2nd and 8th legislative districts to more than $8.1 million, according to data released by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission Thursday.

The 8h District, where state Sen. Dawn Addiego (D-Burlington) is fighting to hold her seat against Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield (R-Burlington) three years after Addiego left the Republican Party, has seen a combined $6.7 million in spending between the candidates, who have spent $2.6 million, and independent expenditure groups that have poured nearly $4.1 million into the district.

Total spending in the 2nd District, where Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-Atlantic) and former Assemblyman Vince Polistina (R-Atlantic) are vying for a vacant seat in the state Senate, was only slightly lower at $6.6 million.

As in the 8th, the bulk of that money — a little less than $4.1 million — has come from outside groups, while the candidates have spent just under $2.6 million.

The outside spending in those two districts accounts for two-thirds of all independent spending on legislative races this year. All 120 legislative seats are on the ballot.

“Both races already rank among the top ten most expensive legislative races in New Jersey history,” ELEC Executive Director Jeff Brindle said in a statement. “The two districts alone have drawn $13.3 million in spending — nearly four of every 10 dollars sunk into this year’s general election.”

It’s also the first time in history two legislative contests have seen more than $6 million in spending in a given election.

Despite the voluminous spending, Democrats are virtually certain to maintain control of both chambers. Democrats hold 25 of the 40 seats in the state Senate and 52 seats in the Assembly. Even if Republicans win the handful of competitive races on the ballot this year, it won’t be enough to hand them a majority.

The race in the 8th District is the seventh most expensive in the state’s history after adjustments for inflation, and the 2nd District contest comes in at eighth place. Both fall far short of the more than $24 million poured into Senate President Steve Sweeney’s (D-Gloucester) 2017 re-election race, by far the most expensive legislative race in the state’s history.

American Democratic Majority, a super PAC with ties to South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross, leads in spending, having invested close to $4.5 million into this year’s general election races. The bulk of that money, $3.7 million, has gone into the 8th District.

Garden State Forward, the New Jersey Education Association’s super PAC, is close behind, having spent nearly $3.6 million, virtually all of it going to the race in the 2nd District.

Other groups have put money behind races, but their spending has been relatively limited. Women for a Stronger New Jersey, a group boosting Republican women seeking office, has put $533,554 into general election races, and the Republican State Leadership Committee has spent $368,965.

Democrats have a broad advantage in spending, more than tripling Republicans’ totals. Democratic candidates raised $30.5 million and have spent $15.9 million. They had $14.6 million left in their war chests.

Republican office seekers, meanwhile, raised just shy of $9 million and have spent a little more than $5.7 million. They had $3.2 million remaining in their coffers.

Gov. Phil Murphy, the Democratic candidate for governor, also leads his opponent in fundraising and spending, having brought in $16 million to former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli’s $13 million.

They’ve both reported spending about $12.5 million, though Murphy had $3.5 million left in the bank to Ciattarelli’s $685,259, according to data released by ELEC earlier this week. The Republican has received roughly $1.5 million in public matching funds since Oct. 19.

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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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