Candidates vying to represent the major political parties in November’s elections for New Jersey’s 12 congressional districts had raised nearly $15 million as of June 1 despite a mostly ho-hum primary season.
The most hotly contested primary, among three Republicans in the sprawling 7th District in Central Jersey, is not even the most expensive so far. Many candidates are amassing war chests early to spend in the fall.
That’s the case in the northernmost 5th District, which covers parts of Bergen, Passaic, Sussex, and Warren counties, where the lead fundraiser is a Democrat without a primary opponent. Joshua Gottheimer, a Wyckoff man who served as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton, leads all candidates in the state in money raised during the current political cycle: He has amassed more than $2.4 million through the end of May. That’s two-thirds of the $3.6 million in total raised in the 5th District.
Gottheimer has his eye on unseating Rep. Scott Garrett, the seven-term Republican who is among the most conservative congressmen in the nation. Some view the incumbent as vulnerable for reportedly saying he would not help fund gay candidates, although Garrett more recently said he is not against gays but opposes candidates who support same-sex marriage. The Cook Political Report rates Garrett as the most vulnerable incumbent, although it still characterizes the seat as leaning Republican.
Garrett has raised nearly $1.2 million since the beginning of 2015, but he had more cash on hand as of the last official reporting period — May 18 — than any other House candidate in New Jersey, including funds left over from prior elections. Garrett’s $2.6 million in the bank dwarfs his two GOP primary rivals. Michael Cino, who lost to Garrett four years ago, had just $70 on hand as of March 31, the last time he submitted a report to the Federal Election Commission, while Peter Vallorosi, whose Twitter page identifies him as a “Pissed off Patriot,” had not filed any reports with the FEC.
The closest primary is likely to be in the 7th District, which includes all of Hunterdon County and portions of Morris, Somerset, Union, and Warren, as well. There, eight-year Rep. Leonard Lance, a Republican, faces another primary challenge from businessman David Larsen, in his fourth try at the seat, and Craig Heard, a businessman and former County College of Morris board member. A lot of mailings and robocalls have already blanketed the district, and with little time left, Lance is well ahead of his challengers in the money race. Lance had twice as much in the bank as of May 18 as Larsen — $352,000 to $173,000 — while Heard had just $6,240. In total, the four candidates, including lone Democrat Peter Jacob, have raised more than $1 million, ranking it eighth richest in the state.
New Jersey’s least expensive district so far is the 10th, which covers much of Newark. Two-term Democrat Donald Payne Jr. has no primary opposition, and is responsible for all $338,000 raised in the district as of June 1. David Pinckney, a prior unsuccessful state Assembly candidate and the sole Republican this year, filed no papers with the FEC.
New Jersey’s primary elections, including the last-in-the-nation presidential primaries, are Tuesday. The winning candidate for each major party will compete in November, along with any independent and third-party candidates who file, for the House seats.