A map of how New Jerseyans are funding the major gubernatorial candidates shows clearly why Democratic Sen. Barbara Buono has been unable to compete with Gov. Chris Christie: The Republican is out-fundraising her virtually everywhere, including in traditional Democratic strongholds.
Using data through October 14 available from the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission, NJ Spotlight calculated and mapped total contributions by ZIP code for both the primary and general gubernatorial campaigns for Christie, Buono and independent Diane Sare, the only other candidate for whom data was available.
The result is a strikingly “red” map for a “blue” state.
People, businesses, unions and committees in four out of every five ZIP codes have given more money to Christie than to Buono. And that includes typically strong Democratic areas in Hudson, Essex and Mercer counties. The state’s legislative district map shows a swath of blue from Bergen County along the coast, across New Jersey’s waist to Trenton and then in the southwest. But most of those areas have given more to Christie this year. Buono’s home county of Middlesex is the only one where she has consistently dominated Christie in fundraising.
“Christie’s fundraising advantage is so overwhelming, I’m surprised that any area comes up blue,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “She has no party organizational support and no key constituencies with access to cash. Moreover, big donors want to go with winners.”
Last year’s presidential fundraising map showed a much different picture, more blue than red, with President Obama outperforming Republican Mitt Romney even in parts of traditionally Republican Hunterdon, Ocean and Warren counties.
As of their last filing, Oct. 7, Christie had far more money to spend than Buono on the general election, now less than two weeks away. The governor had raised $12.9 million, including the maximum $8.2 million from public financing, and had spent $4.9 million of that, leaving him with more than $8 million to spend. Buono had not raised even as much as Christie had already spent, having received $2.1 million, including $1.3 million in public financing. She had spent a little less than $1 million and had about $1.2 million left. As of Tuesday, she had submitted additional receipts to be matched and had received a total of almost $1.6 million, but was still well below the more than $4 million she would need to qualify for the maximum public 2-to-1 match.
Part of the problem has been her inability to convince donors she has a shot at beating the popular Christie, who had a 24-point lead over Buono in the most recent Monmouth University Poll, conducted Oct. 10-12.
“Because conventional wisdom is against her, it makes it very difficult for her to raise money,” said Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University. “A lot of folks don’t want to give unless they really believe it’s going to make a difference.”
And even though Buono was the only establishment Democrat willing to get into the race, the party’s main North Jersey and South Jersey power bosses, George Norcross and Joe DiVincenzo, have done little to raise funds for Buono. DiVincenzo, in fact, endorsed Christie.
“The institutional Democratic Party support has not been consistently strong around the state and that hurts her,” Dworkin noted.
Murray was harsher in describing Buono’s problem: “The writing has been on the wall since the summer when Buono failed to put forward a compelling message that would excite donors. They don’t need to be told by party leaders that any donations would be in a losing effort. Having said that, some losing campaigns can raise money, if in losing, they are able to set an agenda or achieve some other aim.”
The lack of money creates something of a vicious circle for Buono: People don’t believe Buono can win, so they don’t contribute to her campaign, so she doesn’t have enough money to get her message out, but because she can’t get her message out, she continues to be unknown and lags in the polls.
Buono has relied mostly on free media, releasing her first television ad of the general election just last week. The Christie campaign, on the other hand, unveiled its ninth TV ad on Tuesday.
Christie’s national recognition has also helped him raise money. Almost $4 of every $10 the governor raised, not including public financing, came from out-of-state donors, with nearly $1 million coming from New York alone. Buono raised just about $250,000 from out-of-state.
Within New Jersey, the ZIP code most generous to Christie was Princeton’s 08540, from which he got more than $190,000. The governor also got more than $150,000 each from his home ZIP code of 07945, which covers the Mendhams, and from the 07458 of Saddle River and Upper Saddle River. Princeton was also where Buono got her largest contribution total, almost $75,000. Also generous to her were Edison’s 08820, which she currently represents, and her home 08840 that covers Metuchen.
The breakdown of who is donating to the candidates is considerably different.
More than 85 percent of Christie’s donations are from individuals, according to the NJELEC data. While individuals comprise the plurality of Buono’s donors, they are just shy of a majority. The next largest chunk of money to Buono, about 15 percent, came from campaign funds of fellow Democrats, mostly other legislators. She also got 10 percent from unions and 10 percent from union political action committees. Businesses and corporations were Christie’s second biggest source of funds, at almost 8 percent.
This is only the money that the candidates received directly, and does not include independent spending by outside groups that is not coordinated with a candidate and does not have to be reported. NJELEC estimates that at least $12.7 million and as much as $17.9 million has been spent by special interest groups on the gubernatorial election this year. Much of that was pro-Christie and came during the primary from two groups – the Committee for Our Children’s Future and the Republican Governors Association, of which Christie is vice chairman.
NJELEC is set next Thursday to release updated campaign finance totals, which will cover fundraising and spending through October 25.
Here is a complete, searchable list of all donors who gave money to the gubernatorial campaigns through October 14.