Democrats seeking seats in the New Jersey Legislature have raised twice as much money so far as Republicans, according to reports filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
According to ELEC, Democratic candidates had raised $15.5 million as of May 6, the first pre-election reporting date. Republicans had raised $7 million. That's an increase over the same period two years ago for both parties, but the amount of cash on hand is lower. Democrats had $7.7 million while Republicans had $3.6 million. GOP candidates had spent $3.4 million, while Democrats had spent $7.9 million in the prior 16 months.
All Senate and Assembly seats are up for grabs this year. The June 5 primary will determine which candidates represent their parties on the November ballot and, in all but a few cases, who will win the seat, because one party or the other dominates the vote in most of the state's 40 districts.
At this point, incumbents hold a huge cash-on-hand advantage. However, while incumbents always enjoy a major edge, challenger totals should be higher by the general election, said Jeffrey Brindle, executive director of ELEC. If historic trends hold true, both parties are likely to keep most of their cash reserves for the general elections because there are few serious primary contests, Brindle said.
Still, there are primary challenges for 20 ballot slots - - nine on the Democratic side and 11 for the GOP. The most contentious primaries involve Democrats in North Jersey. Three slates plus a lone Democrat are vying for the Senate and Assembly seats in the 34th District in Essex and Passaic counties. There also are primaries for seats in several Hudson County districts.
The districts with the most contentious primaries did not necessarily raise the most money. Candidates in both the 21st, home of Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean Jr., and the 36th, where Democrat Paul Sarlo, chair of the Senate Budget Committee, tops the ticket, have raised more than $1.7 million. Neither Kean nor Sarlo is expected to have any trouble getting re-elected. On the other hand, candidates in each of three safe Republican districts have raised less than $100,000.
Former Gov. Richard Codey, who at one time was considered a gubernatorial challenger this year, has raised the most of any single candidate, netting just over $1 million in his effort to keep his Senate seat in the 27th District. On the Republican side, Sen. Kevin O'Toole of the 40th District in Bergen County has taken in the most money, $908,000.
The governor's race tops the ballot this year and, as of May 6, Gov. Chris Christie had a significant advantage over presumptive Democratic nominee state Sen. Barbara Buono of the 18th District. Christie had raised $6.2 million and had $3.5 million on hand, while Buono had taken in $1.9 million and had $1.1 million on hand.
This is only a portion of the money available during this year's elections. Brindle said he expects spending by third-party groups will rise this year.
Reports filed by gubernatorial and legislative candidates are available online on the.