Candidates on Tuesday's primary ballot seeking the Democratic and Republican nominations to run in November in New Jersey's 12 congressional districts have raised almost $15 million so far, an average of $1.2 million per seat for a job that pays $174,000.
Unopposed on the Democratic side in his bid for reelection, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker has received $2.3 million -- spending about 60 percent of that -- since just last November, according to data from the. Combined, the four Republicans vying for the opportunity to try to oust Booker from the seat he first won in a special election last October, have raised only $146,000 and spent $98,000.
Booker is expected to have no problem beating whichever Republican -- Jeff Bell, Murray Sabrin, Brian Goldber or Richard Pezzullo -- emerges victorious on Tuesday. And only one House seat, currently held by retiring Rep. Jon Runyan in South Jersey's 3rd District, is expected to be competitive in November. So none of New Jersey's races rank even among the 40 most expensive in the nation.
But two competitive primaries -- Republicans in the 3rd and Democrats in the 12th in Central Jersey -- and well-stocked coffers for some of the state's incumbents have contributed to the size of the candidates' primary warchests.
The most expensive is the most competitive, in the 3rd District, which includes parts of Burlington and Ocean counties. On the GOP side, two former North Jersey mayors have moved South in the hope of replacing Runyan.
Tom MacArthur, former chief executive of an insurance firm, has largely self-financed his run by loaning his campaign $2 million. As of May 28, he had raised a little more than that, Sunlight data shows. As of May 14, he had spent $1.2 million. His opponent, Steve Lonegan, who was defeated by Booker last year, has loaned his campaign money, as well, raising about $803,000 in total and spending $634,000.
This race is one of only three that has attracted any sizable independent spending -- money spent by an outside group either for or against any of the candidates. According to the Sunlight Foundation, Patriot Majority USA -- a liberal-leaning group -- has spent $15,710 in opposition to Lonegan and $124,706 in opposition to MacArthur. Political observers see the buys as an attempt to begin trying to build support for likely Democratic nominee Aimee Belgard's general election campaign. The group paid for direct mailings against MacArthur and ads against MacArthur'sand Lonegan's .
Tim Kelly, spokesman for the Lonegan campaign, said he was not surprised by the buy because of Lonegan's conservative credentials and the fact that he is known in the district.
"It doesn't affect us one way or the other," Kelly said. "Steve is out campaigning hard every day. We have a very clear contrast between our campaign and our opponent's campaign . . . It's been our job to provide voters with that clear contrast based on the issues, based on the records of both candidates, regardless of what an outside group might come in and do or say."
MacArthur campaign spokesman Chris Russell said the spending was targeted more against MacArthur than against Lonegan, because the Democrats would rather run against the more conservative candidate in November.
"A left-wing Super PAC led by President Obama's top consultants is playing in this race for one reason and one reason only -- to try and rescue the sinking campaign of Steve Lonegan," Russell said. "They are meddling in a Republican primary with the hopes of propping up Steve Lonegan and dragging him across the line next week so they can beat him in November ... This eleventh-hour smear campaign against Tom is their desperate attempt to save Belgard's candidacy by saving Lonegan's. Republican primary voters will see right through it."
MacArthur also was the beneficiary of a small amount of outside money in support of his candidacy -- $2,541 from New Jersey Family First Inc., according to the Sunlight Foundation.
Despite having no challengers, Booker benefitted from $30,000 in spending for voter ID calls, mailers, and radio ads by Powerpacplus, a super PAC associated with PowerPAC, whose website states its goals as championing democracy and social justice.
The only other race in which any significant independent expenditures have been made is the 2nd, the state's largest district at its southern end. Sunlight data shows Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-2nd) bore the brunt of $6,118 spent on an opposition mailing by Civic Innovation USA Inc.
LoBiondo's is one of four districts where significant amounts of money have been raised by incumbents with no or poorly funded challengers. The unopposed and the amounts they had raised as of May 28 are: Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6th) $1.8 million; Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5th), $1.3 million; and Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-9th), $1.1 million. LoBiondo had raised $1.3 million, compared with $8,800 by challenger Michael Assad.
Two other races -- the 11th, where Rep. Rodney P. Frelinghuysen faces token opposition, and the 12th -- have more than $1 million in receipts through May 28, according to the Sunlight Foundation.
In the 12th District, the four Democrats vying to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Rush Holt, have raised almost $1 million, while the presumptive GOP challenger -- Alieta Eck, who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican Senate nomination last summer -- has about $105,000. The three Democratic state legislators are close in fundraising: Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D-Middlesex) had raised $345,334 and had $45,908 on hand as of May 14; Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Mercer) had taken in $327,827, with $94,263 left; Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Mercer) has raised $251,153 and had $159,399 in the bank as of May 14. The fourth candidate, Andrew Zwicker, had raised $25,031 and spent $16,428.
Click the map for more financial information about the candidates in each district. To see individual contributions by House candidates, explore our database.
Jake McNichol and Chase Brush contributed to this story.