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State legislative candidates spend record amounts in 2017 elections, according to data

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The $19.3 million spent through Oct. 27 on the state's general Legislative races is an all-time high for New Jersey and nearly double the $10.7 million spent in 2015, according to the state's Election Law Enforcement Commission.

Roughly $2.2 million was spent on the state's primary elections this year, more than double the $924,723 that was spent in 2015, according to ELEC’s data. Legislative candidates in this year’s race have raised $36.9 million, much of which came from special interest groups. The state’s Assembly candidates have outraised their state Senate counterparts, $19.07 million to $17.79 million, respectively.

The most expensive race is in the party’s Third District, which is comprised of a portion of Burlington County and Ocean County. State Senate and Assembly candidates have spent a combined $3.2 million in that district, while independent committees have spent $12.6 million on that race.

Democratic incumbent Stephen Sweeney, who also serves as the state Senate’s president, is battling Republican candidate Fran Grenier, a former executive at PSE&G and former Borough of Woodstown Councilman.

Also in the third district, Democratic incumbent Assemblymen John Burzichelli and Adam Taliaferro are facing Republican challengers Philip Donahue and Linwood Johnson. Independent candidate Edward Durr is also running.

By comparison, the district with the second most spending is the the second district, which is comprised of portions of eight counties in the southern and central parts of the state. The candidates in that district have so far spent $2.5 million, while independent committees have spent $2.1 million.

The General Majority PAC, which supports Democrats, has spent $6.4 million so far on the general election – the most out of any outside contributing group. Garden State Forward, a left-leaning super PAC formed by the state’s Education Association in March, has spent the second most at $5.3 million. New Jerseyans for a Better Tomorrow came in third having spent nearly $4 million, and the Operating Engineers Local 825 has spent $1.2 million under its nonprofit group, Stronger Foundations.

The state’s general election will be held Nov. 7.

“This level of independent spending in legislative elections is unprecedented. These groups are smashing previous spending records by leaps and bounds,” said Jeff Brindle, ELEC’s executive director, in a written statement. “We hope the Legislature this fall recognizes the dominant influence of these groups acting independently of parties and candidates. Hopefully, they will enact legislation ELEC has recommended that would require full disclosure by independent spenders.”

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Vince Calio

Vince Calio

Vince Calio covers health care and manufacturing for NJBIZ. You can contact him at vcalio@njbiz.com.

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