The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission found that the most expensive legislative race this year, and the third most expensive race since 2003, was in the Eight Legislative District which spans Atlantic, Burlington and Camden counties. Candidates there spent a combined $8.5 million in a race where Republicans unseated Democratic incumbent Sen. Dawn Addiego, and beat the Democrat Assembly candidates Allison Eckel and Mark Natale.
Following that as the second most expensive race this year, and the fifth most expensive race in state history was the Second Legislative District in Atlantic County, which saw a combined $7.7 million of spending. Republicans won the two Assembly seats and the Senate seat in that district as well.
This year marked the first time that two legislative races in a single year topped $6 million in spending, said Jeff Brindle, the executive director of NJELEC.
The most expensive race in New Jersey – and in the nation – was in 2017, where the Third Legislative District saw $26.6 million in spending. Incumbent state Sen. Stephen Sweeney, the Senate President, kept his seat in a bitter race against a Republican challenger backed by the New Jersey Education Association.
Sweeney lost his seat this year to Republican Ed Durr, a longtime career truck driver who never held public office and spent only a few thousand dollars on his campaign.
Outside groups spent more than the candidates in some of the districts. In LD-8, the candidates spent $4 million while outside groups spent nearly $4.5 million. In LD-2, independent groups spent $4.35 million, while the candidates spent less than $3.4 million.
“We have been predicting for more than a decade that independent special interest groups that spend separately from candidates or parties have become a major force in New Jersey elections,” Brindle said in a Nov. 24 report on this year’s gubernatorial race. “The trend in gubernatorial elections offers perhaps the best evidence yet.”
In that report, the agency that Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli combined to spend $90.6 million, making it the state’s second most expensive gubernatorial race. Spending from outside, independent groups reached $41.7 million this year, the most of any governor’s race in state history.
This year’s legislative elections ranked third in terms of outside spending, with a total of $13.5 million. Outside groups spent nearly $15.4 million in 2013 and $26.5 million in 2017.
The bigges spender was American Democratic Majority, a South Jersey political action committee allied with political powerbroker George Norcross. The group spent $5.7 million, of which $4 million went to LD-8.
Meanwhile Garden State Forward, the super PAC affiliated with the NJEA, spent nearly $3.8 million, of which $3.5 million went toward LD-2.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
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