Don’t like political ads?

Then you might want to tune out the next few months.

An unusual confluence of state and national elections is expected to saturate the airwaves of South Jersey, home to some of the few competitive state legislative districts.

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In October, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat, and Steve Lonegan, the Republican former mayor of Bogota, Bergen County, are the main candidates in a contest to replace longtime U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg.

Lautenberg, 89, died in June. Gov. Chris Christie ordered a special election for Oct. 16.

Democrats and Republicans are expected to do whatever they can to get voters to the polls in the unusual Wednesday election.

“People aren’t used to coming out two times,” explained Daniel J. Douglas, the director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. He said that with two sets of deadlines for registration and ballots, it could be confusing for many first-time voters.

Less than three weeks after the Senate election, voters will return to the polls for the contest pitting Christie, a Republican, against state Sen. Barbara Buono, his Democratic challenger.

Christie has consistently held double-digit poll leads over Buono, and some analysts have questioned if a blowout Christie win could help other Republicans pick up state legislative seats. Christie led Buono 50 percent to 26 percent in a Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll released Thursday.

Democrats hold a 48-31 advantage in the General Assembly and a 24-16 advantage in the state Senate. They have been in the majority in the Senate since 2004 and in the Assembly since 2002.

But some say they think that could change this year.

Analysts have typically zeroed in on four seats held by Democratic state senators — the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Legislative districts in South Jersey, and the 14th District near Trenton. It will become clearer in September and October how at-risk these seats really are.

In this region, Democratic Sens. Jeff Van Drew in the 1st District and Jim Whelan in the 2nd District have survived after being targeted over the last several election cycles.

In the 1st District, which includes all of Cape May County, most of Cumberland County and parts of Atlantic County, Democrats outspent Republicans 3-1 in 2011, when Van Drew and Republican David DeWeese combined to spend $1.6 million. This year, Van Drew faces Susan Adelizzi-Schmidt, owner and president of Suasion Communications Group.

In the 2nd District, which covers most of Atlantic County, Whelan and Republican challenger Vince Polistina spent $5.2 million in 2011, the third-most ever, in a hard-fought race that focused on pensions, jobs and the fate of Atlantic City. Whelan faces Republican Atlantic County Sheriff Frank X. Balles this November.

Douglas pointed to a 2011 Stockton College/Zogby poll that suggested Polistina’s negative campaigning did not make regional voters think worse of Whelan, a former Atlantic City councilman and mayor who has been locally well-known for decades.

After that campaign, Douglas asked, “What’s left to say about Whelan at all?”

Contact Derek Harper:


@dnharper on Twitter

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More than 30 years’ experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines in Illinois, Colorado, Texas and New Jersey and 1985 winner of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association’s John Murphy Award for copy editing.

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